Pay-to-Play Input Sought in Newport

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 10/2/2017 11:41:22 PM
Modified: 10/3/2017 12:16:45 PM

Newport — A committee that is about to make recommendations about whether students should be charged fees to participate in extracurricular activities, including sports, is seeking community input through an online survey.

The committee was appointed following the narrow approval last March of a warrant article at the annual school district meeting in which voters were asked whether the district should study the feasibility of charging a fee.

The School Board, which has not taken a position on the issue, said it placed the article on the warrant because residents had talked about it for several years, and the board wanted to find out how much community support it enjoyed.

The committee, which began its work in August, will make a recommendation to the School Board on Oct. 12.

The first of nine questions on the survey asks respondents if they support charging a “reasonable” fee to all students for activities outside of the curriculum. The survey then asks whether a family should be able to seek waivers based on economic circumstances and if there should be a maximum amount paid by any one family.

Four questions explore whether to charge Newport students, tuition students from other towns, homeschooled and private school students.

The last two ask whether parents should expect their child or children will get “equitable” playing time at the middle school or high school if they pay a fee.

Superintendent Cindy Gallagher said on Monday the committee has met four times and covered a lot of different aspects of the fee idea.

“They have looked at everything,” she said.

The deadline for the survey is Friday, but on Wednesday, when the committee meets at 7 at the Towle School, Gallagher said she will present some preliminary results.

“I have already received 90 surveys.”

The committee also calculated revenues based on a fee of $25 to $30 per activity with a $125 cap per family and after deducting a percentage based on students receiving free or reduced lunch came up with an estimate of $30,000 per year, Gallagher said. Currently, the district’s extracurricular budget is about $330,000.

“The question becomes, is the overhead worth it,” Gallagher said.

The survey can be found at www.sau43.org or through the district’s Facebook page. Paper surveys are available at the SAU office in the former Towle School and main offices of Richards Elementary and the middle high school.

At a meeting in August, about 25 residents brainstormed ideas they said should be considered in the discussion, including which activities should charge a fee, and whether money would go directly to the activity the student is participating in or to the school district’s general fund.

One parent expressed concern that even if scholarships were available, some students may just decide not to be involved.

Gallagher said in August that the feedback she was getting opposed the idea.

If the committee recommends fees and the School Board agrees, they would be implemented in 2018-19 school year.

Also this week, the School Board is holding a forum to discuss options for use of Towle School.

Gallagher said they want to form a committee that would consider both short-term and long-term uses for the building’s open space and make a recommendation for use.

The school was closed to students after the 2015-16 school year but the gymnasium is still used for high school basketball. The SAU 43 offices recently moved into a part of the building.

The forum begins at 6 p.m. on Thursday in the Towle auditorium.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com




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