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Norwin postpones discussion of pay-for-play for extracurriculars

Joe Napsha
| Monday, Sept. 18, 2017, 9:45 p.m.

A week after discussing a possible pay-for-play system for Norwin students involved in extracurricular activities, the school board postponed until February discussion of charging students a fee to be involved in activities such as sports or band.

The board Monday did not take a formal vote on postponing the matter but followed the recommendation of Ryan Kirsch, district director of business affairs, who wanted to “slow the process down.” By February, the district will have more information concerning its overall financial position and the issue could be further examined as part of the district's 2018-19 budget, Kirsch said.

“Participation fees may be a reasonable way to sustain athletic and extracurricular programs, while avoiding cuts in education offerings, as the district faces another challenging year,” Kirsch said. The administration will continue to explore alternative revenue streams and cost-effective strategies, Kirsch said.

Kirsch said his primary responsibility now is focusing on completing an annual report on the past school year, monitoring current finances and preparing for the 2018-19 budget.

When school board members last week discussed the concept of charging students to participate in extracurricular activities, none of the board members proposed a specific amount of money for an activity fee. There was no effort to poll the board members on whether they favored an activity fee.

Director Darlene Ciocca, who broached the subject, pointed out last week that students at Hempfield Area and Derry Area pay a $75 activity fee, while Franklin Regional charges $50. Ciocca said Monday she had simply made a request for consideration of an activity fee.

Director Donald Rhodes Jr. said he believes the school district should not do anything that would hinder students from participating in extracurricular activities.

“We have a drug epidemic out there. We need to keep these kids off the streets,” Rhodes said.

Rhodes, who played football at the University of Maryland, said an activity fee might impact a student's ability to participate in an activity that could get them into college.

The discussion over the possibility of an activity fee created a “runaway train” that wasted the valuable time of the administrators, Rhodes said.

Any activity fee that would be instituted should not be limited to the athletes, Director Becky Gediminskas said. If there had been a fee when she was at Norwin, Gediminskas said she could not have participated in activities.

Charging such a fee could create a situation in which “a lot of students could not participate” in an activity or sport, said Director Robert Perkins, board president.

A few parents who attended the meeting did not offer comment on the issue.

Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-5252 or jnapsha@tribweb.com.

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