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Board raises pay-to-play fees for students

LANGLEY — South Whidbey school board members unanimously approved a $20 increase in sports fees at their meeting Wednesday.

The “pay to play” fee will now be $50 for students who want to participate in sports. The school board also approved a $100 total cap on sports fees.

The fee increase comes almost two years after the school district adopted a nutrition policy that banned pop and candy machines at the high school. Without the high school getting a cut from pop and candy sales, however, revenue for sports programs dropped.

“For the past two years we’ve lost an average of $8,000 per year by removing the pop and candy vending machines,” said school athletic director John Patton.

Up to 275 athletes turn out for 15 separate sports at South Whidbey High School during the nine-month school year. Patton told the school board the sports participation fee hasn’t been raised since the early 1990s.

“The school has tried to keep pace with the increasing costs of just about everything, but we can only do so much,” he said.

In addition, Washington Interscholastic Activities Association fees have increased, plus equipment and uniform prices have been steadily going up.

“As a result each sport’s account budget has been cut by 40 percent due to the drop in revenue,” Patton added.

All fees, gate receipts, water sales and concession money now goes into the student body fund for sports.

Still, it’s not enough. The school needs to purchase a new sound system for Waterman Field, get more specialized dirt for the soccer and football fields and also upgrade equipment.

ASB president Katy Gordon told board members that all the money goes back to the athletes through the ASB account. And ASB treasurer Dylan Fate added that there’s a fund in place to deal with those in need. Fees can be waived or payment plans will continue to be available.

“No one will be kept out of any sport,” Fate said.

Even so, board member Helen Price-Johnson wanted to add an amendment onto the measure to include a $100 cap.

“You don’t want kids to be afraid to ask their parents to play sports,” she said. “The need is definitely there.”

While some school districts, such as Granite Falls, do not charge a fee for students to participate in sports, other districts such as the Riverview School District in east King County charge much more than the $50 fee set by the South Whidbey school board. Athletes at Cedarcrest High School, for example, pay $95 for each sport, up to $195 per student.

A survey of local schools showed an increase to $50 is not out of line with other districts.

“Sports are important,” board president Rich Parker said. “The purpose here is to help make the program sustainable yet maintain a mechanism to help families requiring financial assistance. Clearly, they’ve done that.”

Jeff VanDerford can be reached at 221-5300 or jvanderford@southwhidbeyrecord.com.

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