8/23/11 Board looks at activity fee policy

Board looks at activity fee policy
By Mike Wilder The Times-News 8/23/11        
Reprinted with permission.

 The Alamance-Burlington Board of Education is working toward a policy designed to maximize students’ opportunities to participate in activities that require fees.

 The proposed document says the board’s policy is “that extracurricular activities be equally accessible to all students regardless of family income.”

 The board discussed the proposal during a Monday night meeting. Board members agreed further study — along with more input from school system employees and attorneys — is a good idea before they approve a policy.

 Board member Patsy Simpson has long voiced concern about fees for activities being higher at some schools than at others. She said fees for some activities are high enough to discourage students from low income families from participating.

 Simpson was absent from Monday’s meeting. Jackie Cole, the board’s chairwoman, said she thinks all board members agree with the goal of making activities as accessible as possible for all students.

 The proposed policy calls for principals to monitor the costs of participating in activities, including fees and purchases of equipment and clothing.

 “Principals should ensure that no unnecessary purchases or costs are imposed upon students or parents for participation in extracurricular activities and should maximize opportunities for assistance with necessary costs … to the extent resources are available.”

 The proposed policy assigns to the Alamance-Burlington Board of Education responsibility to set fees each year for participation in extracurricular activities as well as:

  •  Admission to athletic events
  •  School dances
  •  Fees for returned checks
  •  Fees for overdue library books
  •  Parking permits

 The board wouldn’t approve fees set by the state, such as textbook costs. Before the board approves the fee schedule each year, principals would forward to the superintendent or designated administrator a list of proposed fees.

 The proposed policy says students can’t be denied participation in required school related activities based on inability to pay. Questions about what constitutes a required activity are to be resolved by the superintendent or designated administrator.

 During discussion of the proposed policy, board member Tony Rose questioned if it is detailed enough, suggesting ranges of fees for activities could be useful. He said some parents’ concerns are about non-necessities such as clothing of a certain style, and suggested inclusion of language stipulating fees should be consistent among different schools in the system.

 Board member Kristen Moffitt said the policy, though broad, may be a sufficient framework for achieving the board’s goal of making activities accessible to students.