May 26, 2016

Mostly cloudy

Black River schools pay-to-play sports fees may drop

The Black River Board of Education tonight will consider a proposal to slash “pay-to-play” fees for the upcoming school year.

The proposal, submitted by a special athletic council committee, would cut the $250 across-the-board fee for athletics and extracurricular activities by more than half.

“It’s the result of head coaches and myself trying to come up with a plan to drastically cut into it,” athletic director Josh Calame said. “The board would take on more expenses and take it upon themselves to find ways to make up for it.”

The proposed reductions include a $100 charge each for high school football, golf, cross-country, soccer, cheerleading, marching band, majorette and flagline, boys and girls basketball, wrestling, baseball, softball and track and field. Bowlers only would pay a $50 transportation fee.

Seventh- and eighth-graders would pay $75 each for football, basketball, volleyball, wrestling, track, cross country, band, majorette and flagline. Cheerleaders only would pay $25.

Students who pay their fee for one sport would be given a free pass for other sports, meaning they only have to pay the participation fee once to participate in multiple sports.

The proposal comes after the financially strained district passed an 8.7-mill, five-year levy in May.

Superintendent Janice Wyckoff said she doesn’t believe the levy had anything to do with the proposal. She declined to speculate on how the fee change might affect the district.

“The board still has to vote on it, and it’ll be up for discussion” tonight, she said.

Calame said Black River’s athletic programs have sustained losses in participation since the pay-to-play policy was implemented about five years ago.

“Our participation since it came into effect has decreased by the year,” he said.

This year’s girls basketball squad, for example, did not field a junior varsity team for lack of players.

Calame said he hopes the change will mean better days ahead for Black River sports.

“When your numbers for each program go up, your programs are going to be more apt to have success,” he said.

Fees would be due by the first scheduled contest of the season. Students who leave the team before the first event are eligible for a $50 refund for junior high and a $75 refund for high school, as long as they are not removed for disciplinary reasons.

Contact reporter Dan Pompili at (330) 721-4012 or