Carroll to charge students for team sports play

$60 fee required to offset projected budget deficit

July 25, 2002|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

The Carroll County school board unanimously voted yesterday to begin charging high school athletes a fee to play sports.

Carroll students will have to pay $60 for membership on each team, according to the new Interscholastic Athletic Fee policy. Although other public school systems have considered the idea, Carroll apparently is the only Baltimore-area school system - and one of three in the state - to require athletes to pay to play, officials said.

Officials said the payments are expected to yield about $250,000 for the school system.

The board made two changes yesterday to its original plan, which exempts students in the reduced- or free-lunch programs. One change adds a provision allowing a waiver of the fee for financial hardship, as determined by the school superintendent. They did not define financial hardship.

The other change allows cheerleaders to pay only one fee per school year.

Two people addressed the school board at yesterday's meeting.

Richard L. "Dick" Bauerlein, 61, of Union Mills retired five years ago from North Carroll High School as a coach for 31 years and teacher for 34 years. He opposed the fee.

"Sports has changed a lot of kids' lives," Bauerlein, who has coached soccer, basketball, gymnastics, football and wrestling, said in an interview. "Sports has kept a lot of kids in school, and it's a fact when kids participate in extracurricular activities, their grades go up, they have a better attitude about school.

"One kid from a family that plays three sports, that's $180 bucks. If you have three kids, that's $540 bucks," he said. "Some parents aren't going to be able to pay, so their kids will not be able to play."

Bauerlein said he would prefer an activity fee for all students to participate, or not, in band, drama, chess or athletics. The potential hardship exemption has "opened a can of worms," he said.

John Frederick Murray Jr., 45, of Mount Airy agreed, wondering "how much time and effort" would be spent collecting the fee, accounting for it and in staff time to settle objections to it.

"We're not going to net a total of $260,000," said Murray, a candidate for the school board.

Murray, who has a daughter who is a cheerleader at South Carroll High School, successfully objected to the cheerleaders having to pay a fee in both spring and the fall. They aren't entitled to travel with the teams, he said, and a cheerleader costs the system about $98 compared to $435 for a basketball player.

Only Frederick and Washington counties have such a fee, although other counties have considered it in the past decade.

An estimated 4,300 Carroll kids play on sports teams, Cowan said. Letters about the fee were sent home at the end of the school year because some teams begin in August.

"It's a shame, but we've been telling people for a long time that the budget was tight, " said Susan G. Holt, vice president of the school board.

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