SOMERSET — The Somerset Berkley Regional School Committee had already set the new user fees for sports and extracurricular activities at a previous meeting, but last week discussed the proposed policy for how they will be administered.
As had been discussed before, the proposed policy says that students who are on free and reduced lunches will receive waivers from the fees. Under the policy, if the athletic or extracurricular user fee is considered a financial hardship for the student/family, an athletic user fee waiver form may be completed for any student/family who does not qualify for free and reduced lunch. The policy says that if a student/family feels they cannot afford the athletic or extracurricular fee, they may request a payment plan, an extension of the due date or a waiver. Those waiver requests will be submitted to the high school principal and will be kept confidential.
Somerset Berkley Regional School Committee Chairman Richard Peirce said his committee does not want any student not to be able to play a sport because his or her family cannot afford the fees.
The fees that have been approved by the Regional School Committee for user fees for the upcoming school year are $150 for the first sport, $100 for the second sport and a third sport for free. There will be a cap of $500 per family. Other user fees are $200 to participate in the marching band at the high school, $400 to participate in one show choir group, $500 to participate in two show choir groups and $75 to participate in the Distributive Education Club of America chapter at the high school that participates in business and marketing competitions.
Peirce said there was some discussion last week among the members of his committee about when the fees should be paid. The proposed policy says that the fees will be paid when a student/athlete registers for a sport. But Peirce said previous discussions had been around the student-athlete paying the fee after he or she made the team, because some teams make cuts. Under the proposed policy, he said that a refund of the fee would be given if a student/athlete did not make a team.
Peirce said most teams don't make cuts. He said the total number of cuts in all of the sports programs during the past year was 43. He said the Regional School Committee wants input from Athletic Director Joseph Francis before making a final decision on the policy.
Regional School Committee member Victor Machado said he favored being paid at the time that a student-athlete registers for a sport, as opposed to when after cuts have been made. He said it was easier for the School Department to collect fees at the registration time and he said the number of students who don't make teams is far less than the number of students who are on the final rosters. Machado said there has been a concern about student-athletes who may not make the varsity, but do not want to play for the junior varsity team that they are assigned to. He said if they decide not to play at that point, he thinks they should be given their money back. Machado said there was some concern on the committee that requiring the fee to be paid when students register to play sports, as opposed to when cuts are made, may negatively affect the number of students who participate. He said he does not think that is the case. Machado said he thinks it is the user fee itself that will discourage participation.
The way the policy is written, any athlete who leaves a team or club voluntarily or who is dropped from a team or club by the coach, athletic director, advisor or principal for disciplinary or scholastic deficiencies is not eligible for a refund. The principal is allowed to approve of a refund to a pupil for reasons not listed in the policy if there are extenuating circumstances.
The policy says that "the payment of the athletic participation fee to the school carries with it no expectation of playing time for the student-athlete. Coaches are solely responsible for the decisions of playing time based on the development of the student-athlete's skills, their adherence to school, team and Somerset Berkley Regional High School rules, and their exhibition of proper sportsmanship." That part of the policy addresses an issue that has been brought up previously in which some people think if they pay the same amount of money to play a sport as others, that equal playing time should be given to everyone on the team. That was also used as an argument against user fees for sports when it was stated that user fees are charged for the band, but everyone who is in the band participates, whereas there are some student-athletes on teams who do not get a lot of playing time.
According to the policy, the fees could change annually with approval of the Regional School Committee. The school superintendent will make recommendations on whether the fees should stay the same, decrease or increase.
For extracurricular activities, the policy says the fees are due upon the finalization of the club roster by advisors.
The policy requires the superintendent to periodically report to the school committee on the amount of fees collected and the number of student participants in each activity and sport.
The policy also states that the user fees for sports do not cover equipment that is typically purchased personally by athletes or parents, including, but not limited to footwear, practice clothing and specialized equipment preferred by the student-athletes.
At the beginning of the policy, it says that the Regional School Committee recognizes the value of athletic competition and extracurricular activities participation in addition to regular instruction, however, with reduced or limited revenue and increased expenses, the school committee must consider alternative revenue options to support these school sponsored activities.