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LEWISTON -- Lewiston High School athletes will not pay to play sports next year after the Lewiston School Committee Monday night rejected the proposal as a way to raise more money for sports.
Several School Committee members said sports is an important part of learning, and charging athletes sends a bad message. The intention is to have this year's $18,500 cut be a temporary, one- year reduction, with more money restored to sports next year.
Trying to make up for the $18,500 cut in athletics during the school budget process, committee members included higher ticket fees at games as part of the budget that will be decided by voters.
The new prices this fall will be $5 for adults instead of $3 and $3 for students instead of $2. High School Athletic Director Jason Fuller said the $5 and $3 prices are close to what many other schools charge.
Depending on attendance, that could make up for about $11,000, Fuller said.
On the proposed pay-to-play policy, Fuller reported that if athletes paid $10 a sport to play, it could raise about $7,000 if all athletes were charged or $4,000 if athletes that qualified for free or reduced-price school lunch did not pay or only paid $5.
Most high schools do not charge athletes to pay, Fuller said. He found seven high schools that do have pay-to-play. They are Brewer High, $15 per student per season; Cape Elizabeth, $150 per student for a school year; Falmouth, $175 per student per season; Hampden, $50 per student per cap; Maranacook, $60 per student per sport; Oak Hill, $25 per student per sport; and Poland, $25 per student per season.
When asked what booster club members had to say about the idea, Fuller said it was "50/50." Some see it as a good way to raise money for sports; other parents didn't like it.
Lewiston School Committee student representative Paige Clabby said the issue didn't seem to be a hot topic among students. "I haven't heard anyone talking about this," she said.
Still, committee chairman Jim Handy said he was opposed to charging athletes, seeing it as "a slippery slope." The education of students "goes beyond the four walls of classrooms. It happens on the field and on track courses," Handy said.
School Committee member Paul Saint Pierre said pay-to-play wasn't popular when Lewiston had it nine years ago, and it wasn't something that made the School Committee members comfortable.
It's not fair to penalize athletes, Saint Pierre said. "I don't see enormous justification that we have to go to this extent." Charging athletes to pay "would give us a black eye," and it would impact a small portion of the student body. "That is really unfair."
Member Linda Scott said she'd be more comfortable raising gate fees than charging student athletes.
Handy called for a motion on the proposal. There was no motion, meaning the policy wasn't accepted.