Move seen as ‘direct support’ for students, families
Methow Valley schools eliminated the $35 registration fee for high school sports, Superintendent Tom Venable announced on Aug. 13.
The so-called “pay-to-play” fee applied to football, volleyball, cross country, soccer, basketball, wrestling, track, tennis, softball and Knowledge Bowl. The fee was $50 six years ago and had been reduced twice during Venable’s tenure as superintendent before being eliminated altogether, starting this fall.
The Methow Valley School Board’s goal for the past several years has been to relieve families of the pay-to-play fee along with other fees, Venable said.
“We made the decision to invest what limited [budget] capacity we have in a way that directly supports our students and families, and to do what we said we were going to do,” the superintendent said in an interview last week.
Pay-to-play is the most recent item on the list of school expenses the district has eliminated. In prior years, the district started providing school supplies to students and stopped charging for ceramics class and other courses, field trips to North Cascades Institute, and some standardized tests.
Parent Angie Ochoa said she struggled to keep up with the school sports fees. Her and husband Daniel Ochoa’s five children all have played at least three sports a year. Her boys even managed to wrestle and play basketball during the same winter season, making them four-sport athletes.
“It was what kept me up at night,” Ochoa said. “I didn’t know what I was going to do.”
Ochoa said she didn’t begrudge paying the fees because sports are important to her children. A son went on to wrestle in college, and her youngest, senior Tommie Ochoa, wants to play soccer in college.
“I feel like my kids are successful in life because of sports,” Angie Ochoa said.
Ochoa said she was happy to see the school district eliminate pay-to-play, even though the decision came after all but one of her children had graduated.
“I’m sure there are other moms coming up, possibly in the same boat I’m in,” she said.
Students still must pay $50 for an ASB activity card, which is required to participate in sports. Families will continue to be responsible for certain equipment, including cleats for football and soccer players, and rackets for members of the tennis team.
Given that the pay-to-play fee would have contributed $27,000 this year to the ASB budget, Venable acknowledged that eliminating it wasn’t a straightforward decision. The superintendent and school board also would like to offer healthy snacks to students during the school day. Many teachers do this already, paying for the snacks out of their own pockets.
Venable opted to eliminate pay-to-play, with the full support of the school board, because 85 percent of students at Liberty Bell and the Independent Learning Center participate in the extracurricular activities affected by the fee.
These activities are “a fundamental part” of a student’s education, Venable said.
“We should be doing our part to fully fund a student’s participation in those activities,” he said.