THS’ decision to have athletes pay a fee to play sports has caused some rumblings across the community from parents claiming no knowledge of a fee being implemented until the beginning of the school year.

Conversations have been about the $30 fee, especially if there is more than one child in a household playing a sport.

The athletic activity fee, which includes paying for a physical before being permitted to play a sport, is to help support the school’s athletic programs.

According to Athletic Director Larry Dunn, a notice was placed on the school’s Facebook page and letters were sent out in April and were given to coaches to give to players. He said letters were also given to the middle school.

In April, THS announced that a $30 activity fee would be implemented for all sports effective for the 2019-2020 year. “This fee is to assist in the rising cost of maintaining a sport,” the April 5 announcement said. “The fee will be due once a student has made a team and is non-refundable. The first sports to begin collecting the activity fee will be football, cheerleading and softball as these teams are beginning to practice/tryout for the upcoming year.”

Charisa Carter, McDuffie County Board of Education comptroller, said she is mystified by the calls she has received by parents claiming that they were not informed about the fees and by the conversations occurring about notice not being given about the fees because the letters were given to the coaches for distribution and the notice was placed on Facebook. “The conversation about not being aware is not true,” she said.

According to Dunn, people are confusing the athletic fee with a participation fee, which McDuffie County does not collect.

“We are one of the few counties that does not charge a participation fee but this is not a participation fee. This is almost like supplemental insurance. We run into a lot of financial situations when it comes to athletics that most people do not know about,” he said.  He said the athletic fee would help a team have a postgame meal, which is outside of the budget.

Dunn said teams conduct fundraisers to help support athletics, but if the nine teams in rural McDuffie County all hold fundraisers, the collection is going to dwindle.

“Pretty soon the well is going to go dry. We are trying to find a way to keep the kids happy and keep the programs running,” he said. “We are well behind other counties in charging an athletic fee and we are one of the few counties that don’t charge a fee to participate in athletics,” he said

Carter and Dunn said students in every program at THS pay dues or a fee.

“Why should athletics be excluded from being held accountable for what we do in the school?” Dunn asked. According to Carter, participants in other sports have paid the fees. “Once their rosters were solid, they collected the fees,” she said.  Dunn and Carter said the fee for football, which is the largest sport, is drawing the questions. “It has to do with change,” Carter said.

Dunn said football is a highly regarded sport in McDuffie and has traditionally been financially sound. He said the complaints he is receiving concern children who play football and another sport and have to pay a fee to play all the sports, when there was not a fee for football.

“It is about equity in Title IX sports. It is a legal situation in that we have to make sure that there is a balance of equality in every sport we deal with. I cannot have it where one sport is set above all other sports,” he said.

Title IX requires that the athletics programs meet the interests and abilities of each gender. Under Title IX, one team is not compared to the same team in each sport.

The athletic fee, which is set by the coaches, holds students accountable, Dunn said.

“The $30 fee is not something that pays for their takeaways but it helps us maintain that equity across the board,” he said.  If a child in any sport asks for a post game meal, the school should be able to provide it, especially when it is being done for another sport, the athletic director said. “Why not do it for every sport,” he asked.

The $30 athletic fee is per child, per sport a year, in addition to things they get to keep such as shorts, socks, shirts, etc.  “Those personal items are takeaways, they do not come back to us,” Carter said.  The fee will also be used to help offset a variety of athletic department expenses. “We are not trying to pay a bill with the athletic activity fee. We are trying to make it of convenience and comfort for the students,” Dunn said.

Dunn said the fee requirement is similar to the fee requirement a parent pays for a child to participant in recreation sports. “If your child plays multiple recreation sports, then you pay for multiple sports,” he said. “We based it off of them, but they are actually charging more than what we are charging,” he said.

According to Carter, the fee is about fairness in the sports. “It is about making sure that what we do for one sport we do for the others,” she said.

If a student participates in multiple sports, the fee for the first sport is $30, and then $25 for each additional sport. The $30 includes a one-time payment for a physical, which can be for each sport the student participates in. The physical is paid for one time, Carter said.

“We are just trying to maintain balance,” Carter said.

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