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FR officials to consider increasing activity fee

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By Daveen Rae Kurutz
Thursday, April 19, 2012, 12:19 p.m.
 

Franklin Regional parents might pay more than $50 for their children to participate in school activities next year.

School board members said they plan to consider increasing the activity fee for next school year. Board member Joe Seymour, who suggested the change, said he would like the district to use a structure similar to the Pine-Richland and North Allegheny school districts.

"As I look at extracurriculars and athletics, they're great and I want to continue to have a broad program," Seymour said. "I think it's great that the taxpayers of Murrysville want to pay for my child to play lacrosse - but can I ask them to pay for piano lessons too? Where do we draw the line?"

"There's no way the taxpayers of Murrysville should be underwriting my child's extracurriculars," Seymour added. "It's not unreasonable to ask families to do what they can. And this is one area in which we can."

This is the first year of an activity fee at Franklin Regional. Students in grades seven through 12 are charged $50 to participate in unlimited sports and clubs. Those who qualify for the free-and-reduced-lunch program are offered a fee waiver. The fee generated about $75,000 this school year.

However, the collection isn't consistent in clubs, said Superintendent Emery D'Arcangelo. With so many students participating in clubs at the middle school and high school, it's difficult to determine which students haven't paid the fee. In other cases, families pay the fee at the start of the school year, but the student doesn't participate in any activities, said board member Kim Bondi. That happened with one of her three children who attend the high school.

"We need to make sure we can manage any changes," D'Arcangelo said.

At Pine-Richland, students in grades seven through 12 are charged $80 at the beginning of the school year to participate in unlimited activities. The fee applies to all activities, athletics and clubs that take place after school - those that take place during the school day are exempt from the fee.

At North Allegheny, students pay different fees for various activities. Athletes pay $75 per sport per season, with a family cap of $225. Marching band participants pay $50, with a family cap of $150. Students who participate in intramural sports, club sports, ensembles, competition groups and other clubs pay $25 per student per activity, with a family cap of $75. No family pays more than $450 in activity fees.

Board member Roberta Cook said she worries increasing the fee would price some families and students out of participating in activities.

"Joe, no offense, but you can afford (a fee increase)," Cook said. "We don't want to say ‘you're not rich enough to participate' to any of our students."

D'Arcangelo said the administration - including supervisor of athletics Zach Kessler - does not support having different fees for different activities. He cited problems that Hempfield Area School District had implementing a similar fee structure.

Board Vice President Paul Scheinert said he would support a fee structure if it meant that some booster fees would be reduced.

"If we up the ante even further, some students are going to get hit harder," Scheinert said. "I kind of like the idea, if they're paying a fair amount and the booster organizations keep that in mind."

Board member Jane Tower said she supports having a family cap on any increased fee and asked Seymour how he would suggest proceeding with the changes. Seymour didn't have an answer.

"In our family, you're not allowed to criticize anything unless you are a part of the solution and I just broke that rule," Seymour said. "I know enough to lob a grenade and we can go from there."

The issue will be discussed by the policy committee today, Thursday, during its 1 p.m. meeting at the administration building. The committee will craft a proposed change to the policy, which will be discussed at the May 7 school board meeting. Any policy change must be considered for two months before the board takes a final vote to enact it.

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