Thursday, July 10th, 2014

London school board mulls pay-to-participate fee

Two questions prevented the London school board from making a decision on the pay-to-participate fee for athletes for 2012-13.

The fee, which once was $45 per season to cover drug testing, was increased to $100 last year to also cover transportation costs. On June 26, the board tabled the superintendents recommendation to keep the fee at $100 per season.

One of the questions came from Melissa Canney who asked her fellow board members to consider whether or not the district should have a pay-to-participate fee at all. She cited a report presented at a previous meeting by athletic director Ben Mann. In it, Mann noted that few schools in the South Central Ohio League or the Mid-State League, which London will join in 2013-14, have pay to participate fees. He also reported that 110 fewer students participated in sports at London last year compared to the previous year.

“Whether the increased fee had anything to do with the lower numbers, we dont know. But Id like to do the math. What are we really saving with pay to participate? Canney said.

She wants to weigh the benefits students gain from participating in sports against the financial benefit the district gains from the pay-to-participate fee. If the district keeps the fee, she suggested instituting caps on how much an individual or family pays and offering to waive the fee for students who are on the free or reduced lunch plan.

Superintendent Tom Ben said the $100 fee is reasonable compared to what many other districts charge for pay to participate. He also believes that when prioritizing services based on benefit to students, reinstating transportation to and from school for high school students stands above dropping the pay-to-participate fee.

The other question that held up a decision is where marching band fits into the picture. To save transportation costs, the district cut out band trips to away football games and competitions. Ben presented two possible solutions. One calls for the band boosters to pay for the cost of a driver and fuel. The other calls for a pay-to-partipate fee for band members.

Board president Dr. Martha Geib asked how the district would determine the fee amount for band members. If $45 of the $100 pay-to-participate fee for athletes is to cover drug-testing, should band members, who are not tested for drug use, pay the same fee, she asked. She also wanted direct input from the band boosters on the question before making a decision.

Board member Curtis Brooks cautioned that the board cant delay the decision too long because the fall sports and marching band season is just around the corner. Ben agreed, saying a decision is needed at the boards next meeting, which is set for 7 p.m. July 10 in the high school lecture hall.

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