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Hanover’s School Board continues to explore a “pay to participate” scenario for extracurricular activities to help avoid the reduction of 24 teacher positions.
The topic, introduced at the end of January, received some more discussion at the board’s Feb. 7 work session.
Ashland board member Hank Lowry responded to community concerns he had heard. He said that no child would be barred from a sport or activity due to inability to pay a participation fee. The board has yet to back a specific fee amount.
“We fully intend to make sure that everything is available to all of our students, and we’re not exactly sure how we’re going to do it, but please, rest assured that no child will be denied the opportunity to participate in any sport or activity in Hanover schools,” Lowry said.
Board chair Ann Gladstone of South Anna noted that, to some extent, families are already paying to participate in various activities.
“We want to make sure that we’ve got a good picture of what’s already being done, where we are right now, so that any change we decide to make—if we make it—would take into account as much as we possibly can,” she said.
Beaverdam board member John Axselle raised several questions about the “pay to participate” idea.
First, what dollar amount would this fee come to? Then, if a student participates in multiples activities, would the school charge multiple fees?
“There are a lot of things that we have to iron out,” he said.
This includes figuring out a fair way to implement any fee.
Some families are eligible for the free and reduced lunch program, but they don’t take advantage of it. Axselle feared the same might happen with an activities fee.
“They’re embarrassed to take advantage of it, and they don’t come forward,” he said. “They’re not going to come to the school and say, ‘I’m not playing because I can’t afford the fee.’ They’re going to keep quiet about it, and it’s going to be a problem.”
Axselle suggested the board start to narrow its focus to specific budget tactics.
“We’ve kind of been going all over the place in considering a lot of things,” he said. “If we’ve got to make up this deficit, if we’re going to try to do something different, let’s narrow it down and say okay, let’s look at four areas, five areas—whatever the case may end up being—and stay on it and decide and move ahead with it.”
The School Board scheduled an additional meeting to continue examining budget issues. The board will hold a work session Tuesday, Feb. 19—a night that was originally scheduled for budget adoption. Adoption has been pushed to a new meeting date, Thursday, Feb. 21, if needed. Both meetings start at 6 p.m. at the School Board Office.