Caldwell approves $100 pay-to-play fee

The Caldwell School Board unanimously approved a $100 pay-to-play athletics fee at a quiet board meeting Monday night.

The change is one of many underway in Caldwell schools after voters failed to approve the district’s supplemental levy in May. The levy, which had been on the books for over 30 years, funded student transportation, athletics, extracurriculars, staff salaries, curriculum and more. Since the election loss, district leaders have scrambled to fill the gaps, deciding to close one elementary school, reconfigure the district’s middle schools and significantly reduce staff.

And now, the board is tackling athletics.

The pay-to-play changes approved at Monday night’s meeting will require middle and high school student athletes to pay a $100 per-sport participation fee, starting this August.

While the board set the fee to $100 per-student, per-sport, trustees intend to return to the topic at their July 22 meeting to cap the cost for multi-athlete families and multi-sport students.

According to district staff, sports are some of the costliest programs for schools, since they’re not mandated or funded by the state. But sports are also a valuable asset, said Caldwell superintendent Shalene French.

“We know that athletics keeps kids in school, and it’s an important part of what we do,” French told trustees. “It’s not funded by the state. The community has been supportive of our athletics and activities so that we could…provide those without a cost to families.”

But without a levy, the changes must be made, French said. Caldwell is not the first in the area to impose pay-to-play fees. The Middleton, Kuna and West Ada districts all require student athletes to cough up fees anywhere from $80 to $110 per-sport.

But Caldwell trustees and staff agreed that the pay-to-play changes are not ideal for the district, and could prevent some students — particularly low-income students — from participating in sports. But with reluctance, trustees unanimously approved the fee proposal, with plans to place a cap on the cost at a later meeting.

The board also approved a hike to the price of student activity cards from $35 to $50, and increases to adult meal prices. Trustees briefly discussed plans to float a supplemental levy again in the November election. If approved, trustees said they would likely repeal the pay-to-play changes for the following year.

Sadie Dittenber

Sadie Dittenber

Sadie Dittenber, a former reporter with Ed News that focused on K-12 policy and politics. She is a College of Idaho graduate, born and raised in the Treasure Valley.

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