Options are being considered to help River Bend students with activity fees.
Saundra Field, a parent with children in the school district, attended the Monday night meeting of the River Bend School Board to discuss activity fees.
She told the board she has been approached by students who would like to be in an activity, but are unable due to the cost of the activity fee. She said that one out of every three students is not participating due to the costs.
“And I just feel that’s way too many kids not doing anything,” Field said.
Superintendent Chuck Holliday confirmed that currently 2/3 of the students participate in activities. However, this is the highest percentage of participation the district has seen since the 2005-2006 school year. He did agree that the district would like to see participation increase.
“For every kid we get it, I think, we can help make a difference,” Holliday said.
Field has been working with Athletic Director Derek Germann and the community to find a way to help those not participating due to the activity fees. Recently, she asked 12 people whom she felt could afford it, including herself, if they were willing to sponsor a student by paying their activity fee.
Seven out of the 12 were willing to pay the $285 for a multi-activity fee cost.
“If everybody called two people, we could have 30 kids that we don’t have now in activities,” Field said.
Originally, she thought of having the person donating the money for a student willing to participate in a specific activity and awarding it randomly, like a prize to those who could not afford it otherwise. However, she worried about complying with the Illinois High School Association rules.
“We want to make sure we follow the rules so we can actually help the kids,” Field said.
Several years ago, she and her husband paid for the activity fee for several students. The IHSA said that was considered a gift and the students were ineligible the whole next school year.
“So we don’t want anything like that to happen to any of our students,” Field said.
Field has asked Germann to help her contact the IHSA to find out what they can do. Germann said they need to make sure they are not “buying” the athletes and have to be careful of overgifting.
Board members questioned what the method for awarding any money would be. The possibility of awarding it through the same method as the reduced school lunch program was discussed.
The idea of presenting the money to the school and having the activity fees reduced as a whole was also given. River Bend Middle School Principal Kathleen Schipper said the problem with that would be that if this reduced the cost by $30, for instance, some of the people still might not be able to afford it.
“Obviously, whatever the mechanism is, it’s going to have to be set up so it is not discriminatory,” Board Member Jane Orman Luker said.
The board agreed that more work needs to be done on this idea. Board President Dan Portz thanked Field for bringing this idea to them now while they still have enough time to look into it for next year.
Holliday will bring more information to the board and a committee may be formed to work on this problem. Field was willing to serve on such a committee and did not care what method was used to pay for the students’ activity fees, as long as it allows more students to participate.
“The goal is just getting the money there to help the kids,” Field said.