There was little dissension at Tuesday's Bowling Green Board of Education meeting over a proposed pay-to-participate plan for sports and some clubs.
Comments revolved around concerns over how the district would implement the program with just a month to go before school starts, to what would happen to families with athletes at both the middle school and high school.
The board did not take action on the recommendations and will announced later a special meeting to vote on the matter.
Superintendent Ann McVey presented the proposed fee schedule for the 2013-14 school year, including a $100 charge for the first sport played, $75 for the second, and $50 for the third, all at the high school. There would be a family cap of $350, but no individual student cap.
Students at the middle school would pay $50 per sport with a family cap of $150.
Cheerleaders would pay $50 per season.
The recommendation "is a starting point for discussion," said McVey.
She said she had heard from voters after the last levy defeat questioning why the district did not have a pay-to-participate program in place.
She also recommended a $25 fee each for drama club, quiz bowl, student activities board, and Model UN, all at the high school.
Concerns about the fees for drama club and Model UN were raised, and will be addressed when the board makes its final decision.
The Model UN adviser pointed out she has not been paid so students in that program should not be charged a fee.
JoBeth Gonzalez, drama teacher, asked the board to reconsider the $25 fee charged to her students.
"It takes a lot of self confidence to say I want to join drama club," she explained.
Students enter her group at varying times throughout the year. Charging a fee to simply join may stop a shy student from joining.
Rather than have students pay up front, the board will consider separate fees for each of the fall, winter and spring drama productions.
McVey also pointed out that any extracurricular, such as marching band, that is graded is exempt from this plan.
The swimming team, which is a club team and not supported by the district, also is exempt from the athletic fees.
One parent wanted to know if they have students in both the middle school and high school, which cap will apply.
"We have to consider that," replied McVey.
She added that it would take nearly $1,000 per student per sport to recoup the $463,000 spent on extracurriculars each year.
This fee schedule would bring in an estimated $227,000 to help partially cover those costs.
"We don't want a program that leaves any student out," she stated.
Another person asked what would happen with the fee schedule once a levy is passed.
McVey pointed out that Bowling Green is one of a few in the area that doesn't charge for extracurriculars.
Before now, only Bowling Green and Elmwood did not charge students to participate in sports and clubs.
Fees will be collected by coaches after tryouts.
The district also will have to determine under what circumstances fees may be refunded.
McVey said a student removed from a team because of grade eligibility would not get a refund.
Bruce Jeffers, who has two children in the high school, said it was sad to be at this point. He can understand why the board is implementing this, but "if extracurriculars are really part of their overall education, shouldn't it be free?"
McVey said the defeat of the levies and the district's attempt to be as cost effective as possible is brought on this plan.
"Will you be able to do that in two weeks?" asked another resident.
Another person wondered if parents have to pay for their child's sport, do they have a say in who the coach is.
Sandy Carsey suggested the district work to get the community behind school programs.
"We need to get the community more involved so maybe they'll support athletics and may the levy, too," she said.
She pointed out that the bleachers for football and basketball home games have become empty.
Greg Shepard, a volunteer assistant coach for the boys basketball team, suggested the district sell banner ads in the stadiums like what the city does at Carter Park.
Board member Eric Myers said the board hired Athletic Director Scott Seeliger because of his fundraising abilities.
The district also will add fees at the elementary level and for parking at the high school.
Youngsters in K-2 grade will be asked to pay $20, and those in grades 3-5 and grades 6-8 at the middle school will pay $30.
A fee for student drivers will be $25, and the current fee of $20 for high school graduation also likely will increase.
The ask high school students to pay a classroom fee is not an option, McVey said.
"To put a fee on top of that (athletics fee), I didn't feel this was the right time."
The board also set dates for a series of community meetings to discuss additional ways for the district to save money. All the meetings will be held in the Crim Elementary cafeteria. The dates are July 23 and 25 at 6:30 p.m.; July 29 and 31 at noon; and Aug. 2 and 7 at 8 a.m.
"We want to know your thoughts," said board President Ellen Scholl.
Pay-to-play fees common in area schools
In Tuesday's presentation, Superintendent Ann McVey used Eastwood, Lake, Napoleon, Oregon, Otsego and Perrysburg in her comparison on how other districts handle pay to participate.
Oregon charges the most, at $150 for the first sport, $100 for the second, and $50 for the third, with a $500 family cap and no reduction allowed for families who quality for free and reduced lunches.
By comparison, what other schools in Wood County charge:
• Lake Local School District charges $70 for the first sport, $60 for the second and $50 for the third with an individual cap of $200 per student and $360 per family. Fees apply to both high school and middle school sports.
The district also has set up two tiers for various student activities, including $30 for the first program per season, $20 for the second and $10 for the third. This covers such activities as marching and pep bands, the school musical and drama, and both high school and middle school quiz bowl.
An additional $10 is charged for a second tier of activities, including yearbook; student council; art, pep, library, French and Spanish clubs; student council; newspaper and yearbook; and National Honor Society.
• North Baltimore also charges for both high school and junior high sports. It's $50 per sport at the high school and $25 per sport at the junior high. The district set a family cap of $150 for students in grades 7-12.
• Eastwood charges $100 for the first sport, $75 for the second, and $50 for the third at the high school. At the middle school, the charge is $50 for the first, $25 for the second, and the third is free. The district set a family cap at $500 but there is no individual student cap.
• Otsego High School charges $65 for the first sport, $45 for the second, and the third is free. There's a fee of $25 for the first club (for example, student council, the musical and pep band) and $20 for the second, and the third is free. No high school student will pay more than $110 per year.
At the junior high, fees are $45 for the first sport, $25 for the second, and the third is free. Club fees are $25 for the first, and the second is free. The student cap at the junior high is $70 per year.
No junior high family will pay more than $165 per year.
• Perrysburg charges each high school student $75 for each sport. A maximum of $150 per individual participant will be set and a maximum of $225 per immediate family for high school athletics and selected extracurriculars such as Speech and Debate.
At the junior high, the fee is $50 per sport plus quiz bowl and Power of the Pen. A maximum of $100 per individual participant will be set and a maximum of $150 per immediate family for junior high school athletics and selected extracurriculars.
• Northwood charges $60 a sport, or $120 to cover all sports and activities at the high school for a school year. At the junior high, it's $40 for one sport or $80 to cover all played.
At most districts, families that qualify for free or reduced lunches also will either qualify for reduced participation fees or have their fees waived.
Board member Eric Myers added that the district will look at ways to help families who can't afford the fee but who don't qualify for free and reduced lunches.
All fees listed were supplied by district administrators, a school newsletter, or on the district's Web site.