Athletic fees are heading to Sumner

By Dannie Oliveaux-For The Courier-Herald

Beginning in the fall, all elementary, middle and high school students will pay to play sports in the Sumner School District.

A proposed athletic participation fee before the School Board would generate more than $57,000 in increase revenues for the district's financially-challenged general fund.

If the proposal is approved, elementary students will pay $10 per sport; middle schoolers will pay $15 and high school athletes $25.

Under the proposal, students who receive free or reduce-price lunches will pay less. Reduced-lunch students will pay $10 for high school sports and there will be no fees for middle school or elementary students. Students who qualify for free lunches are exempt from the fees at all levels.

The Sumner district has two high schools, three middle schools and eight elementary schools. The high school has 18 athletic programs, the middle schools have 11 sports and there are three in the elementary schools.

Athletic Director Tim Thomsen said the money generated would be used to pay coaches' salaries.

“Based on the financial situation a lot of school districts are finding themselves in, it's the responsible thing to do,” Thomsen said.

“Athletics are very important in our district - and other districts too - to the point we need to be responsible.”

Thomsen said implementing an athletic fee avoids cutting programs for students.

He said district parents suggested the pay-to-play fee.

“They made it clear about three years ago when there was a proposal to cut some programs, they would rather pay a fee,” Thomsen said. “We listened to our parents, of course.”

Thomsen noted all funding for coaches comes from levy money and not from the state.

The fee, as proposed, would generate $4,500 from football, $3,000 from boys and girls track (assuming 60 per team) and $2,500 from wrestling (50 per team).

Elementary students only can participate in volleyball, basketball and track.

Currently, three surrounding school districts charge fees for high school sports. In Puyallup, students pay $15 per sport, which goes for transportation. At White River, students pay $75 to participate in football and $60 for all other sports.

Enumclaw charges students $25 per sport with the exception of $40 for swimming and $50 for golf.

Of 35 school districts surveyed , 19 charge students to participate in athletics.

Life Christian Academy - a private school in Tacoma - charges students $110 per sport, the highest among those surveyed. Puyallup was the lowest.

Among 23 middle schools surveyed, all but eight charge students to turn out for sports.

Puyallup had the lowest fee of $8 and Life Christian Academy the highest at $85. Puyallup fees will increase to $13 for 2008-09.

White River charges $50 for middle school football and $40 for other sports, while Enumclaw's middle school fees are $20 per sport.

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