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Pay to play sports?

Published June 18. 2013 05:02PM

Students in the Panther Valley School District will likely have to fork over $30 to play a sport under a new policy being considered by the school board.

It would cost $20 to play a second sport, and $10 for a third, according to the policy. The board approved the first reading at a public meeting Thursday.

The fees, which would offset athletic budget expenses, would be required to play any Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) team or join cheerleading.

Students whose family incomes are below a certain level, who qualify for the federal free or reduced lunch program, would be exempt. Other personal or hardship exemptions would be considered on a case-by-case basis by the high school principal. The identities of those students would be kept confidential.

Non-athletic or club activities, such as chorus, JROTC, or band, aren't included in the policy at least not for now.

The board will likely have the second reading of the policy when it meets at 7 p.m. June 27, and then adopt it before classes begin in late August.

"As costs increase, the goal of the board is to have those who benefit most from the sport or activity to take more ownership," said Superintendent Rosemary Porembo.

The school district expects the fees to generate about $7,500.

The district in the past few years has been cutting deeper into spending in an effort to avoid a property tax increase. This year, it cut six educational positions. Last year, it agreed to close the district's swimming pool.

The controversial cuts enabled the board to again adopt a budget that keeps the property tax the same, at 55.690 mills in Carbon County and just a sliver more, 52.26 mills (up 0.02 of a mill), in Coaldale, which is in Schuylkill County.

"When we were developing the 2012-2013 budget, we did a cost analysis of all our sports and activities," Porembo said. "We also projected an activity fee per student, from $10 up to $100 per activity. Section 511 of PA School Code empowers local school boards to adopt reasonable rules and regulations governing sports and activities. Since athletics and clubs are not part of the guaranteed basic public education, it allows school districts to charge fees."

Before the policy becomes effective, the district will employ various ways to notify parents and guardians of the fees. The amounts of the fees would be able to be changed on the recommendation of administrators and with the board's approval.

The fees must be paid by check or money order before a student can participate. Coaches will be given a list of who has paid the fee.

There would not be any refunds, except if a student fails the physical or is cut pre-season or before the first game.

Faced with rising expenses and leaner revenue, school boards in many districts are instituting similar measures. They include neighboring Tamaqua Area School District, which adopted a pay-to-play policy in 2008.

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