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Chelsea Eliminates Pay to Participate Policy

Student athletes at Chelsea High School and Beach Middle School will not pay a fee for district-sponsored sports beginning next month.

After seeing participation rates drop in the past year, the Chelsea School District Board of Education voted 5-1 on Monday to cancel its unpopular pay to participate fee for high school and middle school sports.

Beginning with the 2012-2013 school year, students will no longer be required to pay fees to participate in district-sponsored athletic programs.

"We instituted this policy two years ago because we were in tough economic times. We are still in tough economic times, but I'm fearful that this policy could exclude students who might not have the money but are too proud to let others know that they can't pay for a sport," Stephen Olsen, board president said.

Last year the district charged $25 for unlimited sports at the middle school and $100 for unlimited sports at the high school. Students who qualified for free or reduced-price lunch only paid $10 to participate.

Trustee Sally Devol voted against eliminating the policy citing the district's approximate $200,000 operational deficit budget for the upcoming school year.

"I think we need to look at all the information completely before rushing to a decision," Devol said. "It's hard to give up the revenue pay to participate generates when we're in a deficit."

Board Vice President Laurel McDevitt agreed, stating that she would hate to see the district eliminate the policy only to reinstate it out of necessity a year later.

"It would be difficult to yo-yo back and forth," she said. "I just it to be a thoughtful and well reasoned decision. I would hate to get rid of the policy and then bring it back."

Superintendent Andrew Ingall said the fees only contributed about 10 percent to the district's approximately $660,000 athletics budget, however, and primarily covered the coaching staff’s salaries.

Ingall said since the policy was implemented, the rate of high school students participating in sports fell from 74 percent in 2010 to 67 percent in 2011.

He said the board's decision will require a budget adjustment using fund equity to pay down the deficit.

Following the vote, Chelsea resident Sam Vogel expressed gratitude with the board's decision.

"We should not be charging kids a fee to participate in extracurricular activities. Though financial aid might be available, most kids won't ask for it, they just won't show up for an activity," he said.

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