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McDowell’s New Activity Fee Has Students Calling Foul

Any student planning on participating in multiple activities this school year should be aware that it will cost them.
At the end of the 2015-2016 school year, the Millcreek Township School Board approved a new policy requiring students to pay a separate $50 participation fee for each activity they participate in. This policy took effect this school year.
Even though this new rule may be financially burdensome for some students, that is not what most students are upset about. Ava Gebhardt, a sophomore and three-sport athlete at McDowell, says, “I didn’t hear it from the school district. It wasn’t a public thing that they said on the announcements or anything.”

According to an online poll, 44.8 percent of McDowell students were not aware of the new fee, and only 3.4 percent of students who had heard of this change saw it on the school district’s website. The majority of students heard about the increased activity fee from their coaches at practice, while others heard about it through a friend or teammate.
The poll also shows that 82.6 percent of students believe this new policy is unfair to students who participate in multiple activities.
The Millcreek Township School Board has written in its Policy Manual under Interscholastic Athletics, that it wants as many students as possible to participate in activities because it “contributes toward developing a better person and citizen.”

Mark Becker, the Millcreek Township School District Athletic Director, says the new fee was approved by the school board as part of the district’s annual budget. The school district’s budget has been tight for the past few years, and although they have had a budget surplus three years in a row, the district is still operating at a deficit.
By increasing the activity fee, the district can spend less of the money given to them by the state paying athletic coaches or purchasing new equipment.
This recent rule may put a new financial burden on some families who were not expecting this change. “Personally, I don’t like it because I play three sports,” Gebhardt says, “which means it costs $150 a year when it was only $50 last year. It was a kind of a surprise.”
However, the Millcreek Township School District does have a special policy for financially-troubled families. By contacting the Business Manager, students can receive a reduced or removed fee if they participate in the reduced and free lunch program.

Enrollment has also gone down in the Millcreek Township School District, perhaps leading to a decrease in activity participation. In 2013, 7547 students were enrolled in the district, but as of 2016, only 6947 students are enrolled. This means that each year, the Millcreek Township School District loses about one hundred fifty kids. The school district estimates that by 2022 they will have lost about 14 percent of enrolled students.
Abby DiMarco, a freshman and member of the McDowell Marching Band, says the new rule discourages her from signing up for multiple activities because “the money adds up, and it ends up being too expensive.”
However, Becker says, “I don’t think it (the new activity fee) will affect participation.”
Many students are also concerned about how this money will be used. Activity members do not want their money to be put into a different club. Becker says that a group of administrators, including coaches, activity directors, and himself, will decide how the money will be used “based on all extracurricular activity needs.”
However, with the construction of the David P. Hanlon Community Sports Complex, expected to be completed in late summer, a number of students believe the money may not go directly back into their sport.

Some parents are upset about this policy change, as well. DiMarco’s mother, Jennifer, believes that the increased activity fee is unfair because families already have to pay for equipment, uniforms, and travel fees. Other parents and students believe it makes sense to have students who participate in more after school activities pay more money.
However, some activities are not required to pay any participation fee. For example, students performing Center for Performing Arts theater productions are not obligated to pay the $50 activity fee, although they may have other expenses.
DiMarco says that she feels relieved that she has an opportunity to participate in certain activities without a payment, but she says it’s unfair to the activities that require one. “This new rule changes my mind about the school district’s priorities dealing with participation in activities.”

As featured in the January 2017 issue of The Trojan Voice

About Trojan Times Staff

Trojan Times Staff

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