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Medford schools raise sports participation fees

The Medford School Board hiked student athletic participation fees by 50 percent Tuesday as a way to preserve part of the middle school sports program that would otherwise have been eliminated because of budget cuts.

It will cost middle school students $75 and high school students $150 next year to play a sport. The fee for participating in two or more sports is capped at $150 for middle school and $300 for high school. The current fee to participate in athletics is $50 for middle school and $100 for high school.

Football and basketball will no longer be offered as sport at the middle school level next year. Secondary Education Director Doug Jantzi said he is in discussions with the YMCA and the Kids Unlimited nonprofit to develop football and basketball programs that would be linked with the middle schools

Basketball costs about $60,000 per year to provide at the middle-school level, while football is pegged at about $30,000, Jantzi said.

In all, the district of about 12,000 pupils will cut $166,000 in athletics next year, he said. The remainder of the cuts come from slashing all high school varsity head assistants and two golf coaches, he said.

"We are between a rock and a hard place because if we don't (increase participation fees) we are looking at eliminating those programs," said Medford schools Superintendent Phil Long.

Jantzi said the district also is about to begin discussions with coaches to decrease their stipends for coaching as a way to protect athletic programs. The coaches proposed the pay reductions, Jantzi said.

Board Member Tricia Prendergast said she is concerned that sports might no longer be affordable, especially for families affected by the recession, and that foundations would not be able to provide as much help in providing scholarships for students who can't afford the fees.

Jantzi said he planned to look for other resources to help provide scholarships for needy students who want to play sports.

Participation fees and gate receipts pay for everything related to the district athletic programs, except for coaches' pay, Jantzi said.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or pachen@mailtribune.com.