By Rick Palsgrove
Some members of the Groveport Madison Board of Education have questioned how and why extracurricular fees are assessed to parents and students in the district.
“Are these fees causing a hardship for our parents?” asked board member Nancy Gillespie at the June 27 board meeting.
Deputy Superintendent John Hurd presented a list of the district’s extracurricular and co-curricular fees (co-curriculars are tied to academics, while extracurriculars are not) to the board for review.
The fees include: band, $290 for band camp (there are no fees for band uniforms however, band students are required to have black shoes and shirt); baseball, $150 for hats, jersey and t-shirt; boys basketball, $140 for travel suit and 15 team meals; girls basketball, $50 for warm-ups; bowling, $165 for alley rental and t-shirt (next year the district will pay the alley rental cost); cheerleading, $550 for camp, shoes, tumbling lessons, bow, four t-shirts, warm-ups, poms, spanks, and rally/parade gear; football, $120, of which Hurd said laundering is 50 percent of this cost; ski club, $205 for ski rental (if skis are not rented, then the fee is $140); boys soccer, $185 to $570 for tournament fees, cleats, shin guards, socks, and clothing; track, $80 for indoor fees, jersey, and shorts; and volleyball, $120 for athletic training and summer league.
“I believe using the word ‘fees’ in the title of the chart given out at the board meeting may have caused some confusion,” said Communications Coordinator Nancy Daly. “Groveport Madison Schools is a no-fee district. We made a promise after the levy we would no longer charge pay-to-participate fees and we have honored that promise. This is simply a list of what costs a student may have to spend to participate.”
Daly cited as an example that the chart listed band camp with a fee for $290.
“Band camp is optional,” said Daly. “It’s on the list because if a student chooses to participate, it would cost $290. However, there are always ways to assist students through fundraising opportunities.”
Daly said hats, jerseys, warm ups, cleats, shorts, etc. are examples of items that are needed to participate in a sport or activity.
“Students pay for those, but they keep them,” said Daly. “The list was a way to gauge what it might cost families if they choose to have their child participate.”
Hurd said parents can use a payment plan to fulfill the costs, some of which are one time costs.
“We are a no-fee district,” said Daly. “The athletic department does not collect any fees. There are some costs for the athletes for purchases of items they keep or services they receive. Some teams may want their players to all have the same shirt. If a student chooses to purchase the shirt, he or she keeps it. Booster groups may institute other costs separately from the district. They engage in fundraising to help offset costs.”
Athletic Director Steve Petros confirmed Groveport Madison does not have mandatory athletic fees.
“We did away with pay to participate when we passed the last levy,” said Petros. “A lot of our teams want to buy things, but it is either a service or product they are purchasing. For example, baseball buys a jersey and hat every year that the kids keep. They like having their names on the back so that is a purchase the kids like to make. Basketball teams like to buy a warm up. (Boys basketball) Coach Grashel has the kids throw in some money for team meals. It isn’t a fee that goes to the school. Any sport a kid plays will require some kind of purchase whether it be shoes, a mouthpiece or so on.”
Gillespie expressed concerns that fees may prevent some students from participating in extracurricular activities.
“The opportunities need to be equitably available for all the kids,” said Gillespie. “I don’t want to see a student closed out of something because they cannot pay a fee.”
Board member Libby Gray agreed stating, “We need to make it so anyone can participate even if they can’t afford the fees.”
Hurd said the different programs hold fundraisers, obtain sponsors, and seek help from the boosters to help with financial hardship cases.
He also noted some programs are self-supporting, such as the softball program, which finances itself through its own fundraising efforts.
“Coaches also work to help the kids who have trouble paying,” said Hurd.
He said coaches hold meetings early in the school year to inform parents about costs and the expectations involved in their programs.
Gray questioned why cheerleaders have to pay for tumbling coaches and lessons, noting for example that the district pays for several football coaches.
Board President Bryan Shoemaker said the tumbling lessons are held at professional facilities outside of the district’s program. These facilities specialize in the type of gymnastics that modern cheerleaders perform. He also said the football program requires more coaches because of the comparatively large number of participants involved in the sport.
Shoemaker and Hurd both stated that in many sports the athletes pay for outside programs and tournaments throughout the year in order to improve their performance.
“If a student chooses to participate in those events, there would be costs associated with those activities, but participation is optional, and again, fundraising opportunities are available to assist in covering costs,” said Daly.
“We (the district) can’t pay for everything,” said Shoemaker. “The kids and parents have to take some ownership.”
The board asked Treasurer John Walsh to find out how much it would cost the district to pay all the fees for students in extracurricular and co-curricular activities. The board tabled the discussion until its August meeting.
What other school districts do
Daly said every school district has some costs associated with their sports programs.
“Kids purchase shoes, warm ups, etc. but those are items they choose to buy,” said Daly. “We are no different from other districts in that regard. We do differ significantly in that we do not charge pay-to-participate fees like most surrounding districts.”
According to Groveport Madison officials, here is what nearby school districts charge for extracurricular activities:
•Pickerington Schools charges $275 for high school pay-to-participate fees for the first sport a student participates in and $140 for an additional sport in the same season. In addition, they charge their band students $150 which includes a uniform fee and a transportation fee.
•Hamilton Local Schools charges a $75 pay-to-participate fee.
•Reynoldsburg City Schools charged $175 per student per sport.
•Gahanna Jefferson Schools charges $200 for the first sport and $100 for a second sport.
•Canal Winchester Schools charges $200 per activity with a $400 individual cap.
•South-Western City Schools requires $150 from their students per sport at the high school level and Marching Band students pay $100.