Pay-to-play fees for athletics have been eliminated in the Waverly school district after a unanimous vote Monday night by the school board.
“It’s a terrific thing we’re eliminating barriers for kids who want to be involved,” said Waverly Athletic Director Chris Huff. “Athletics can teach lessons they don’t necessarily get in the classroom.”
The board action, at the recommendation of superintendent Terry Urquhart, was aimed at increasing participation in athletics and eliminating a potential barrier for students to join in.
“We need to provide a total experience for our kids,” said Urquhart. “It (the fee) makes absolutely no sense.”
Participation fees to play sports are the norm in school districts in the area and throughout the state, though Waverly has had them only since 2007. It was among the last of the area districts to implement the pay-to-play model, and is the first in the area to eliminate it.
Huff says it’s been difficult dealing with the issue over the years. He said he would sometimes work out a trade, with a student or a parent working in lieu of the fee.
Huff saw the fee as a barrier, particularly for students wanting to try a new sport and those wanting to play more than one, causing Waverly to have few three-sport athletes these days.
“Waverly Community Schools wants to offer all students the opportunity to have a complete education,” school board president Britt Slocum said Tuesday morning. “We know education happens in the classroom, but an integral part of it is the opportunity to participate in athletics and other activities. We want to remove this financial burden from our families and open up all opportunities to our student population.”
The fee was instituted in 2007 in response to a budget shortfall. It was expected to raise about $41,000 a year.
However, the average revenue generated from the pay-to-play fee has never reached projected levels. It has been about $15,500 for the past three fiscal years, according to Waverly finance director Evan Nuffer.
The highest amount was in the 2007-2008 school year at just over $27,700.
In the first year of the fee program high school athletes paid $100 and middle schoolers $50 regardless of the number of sports they played. Students eligible for free or reduced lunches were exempt.
In 2011 middle school sports were eliminated and the fee in the high school was changed to $50 per sport with no exemptions.
Currently over half of Waverly’s student population is eligible for the free and reduced lunches.