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Ashland schools put forth 'pay-to-play' plan

ASHLAND — The school district's Budget Committee might recommend a "pay-to-play" program for sports and other extracurricular activities in an 11th-hour effort to avoid some budget cuts.

The 10-member committee, made up of School Board and community members, will look at charging students $50 or $100 per extracurricular activity. The topic will be discussed at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the district office.

The change would require approval by the Ashland School Board, according to Superintendent Juli Di Chiro.

At the committee's first meeting Wednesday night, four committee members voiced interest in looking at how much money the district could raise by charging extracurricular fees — for participation in everything from football to debate.

"I'd like to look at kind of a reduced fee if that would enable us to restore some of our cuts," said Larry Cooper, a committee member. "Let's see what $100 would generate and let's see what $50 would generate."

Other nearby school districts charge similar fees of about $100 per activity, but limits are set so that families with several students in sports aren't overtaxed, according to Jeanne Peterson, the district's executive secretary.

Ashland schools already charge fees for club sports and some extra sports activities, such as trips to tournaments. Students who can't afford to pay can tap a reserve fund made up of donations to the district until it runs out, which it does every year, Di Chiro said.

"I actually am concerned about the students who can't afford to pay for those activities," said School Board member Heidi Parker.

The School Board will consider a third round of budget cuts at 7 p.m. Monday in the Ashland Middle School cafeteria. The cuts include the elimination of the equivalent of about 31/2; full-time positions, which means Bellview Elementary School Principal Christine McCollom, a part-time educational assistant, a district office employee, a part-time secretary and a part-time custodian would lose their jobs.

If the board approves the third round of budget cuts, 141 employees — out of a total of about 370 in the district — will have been affected by the cuts, either through job losses, shortened hours or transfers within the district, according to Di Chiro.

"In my 35 years in public education, this budget represents the deepest levels of reductions I have ever had to implement," she told the Budget Committee.

"There may be disagreement in the community on the various components that make up this budget, but I hope that all realize that while none of these proposed cuts were desired, all were necessary to balance the budget," Di Chiro said.

Hannah Guzik is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. She can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 226, or hguzik@dailytidings.com.