Wayne High School held its first preseason football practice on Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

School sports fees can vary by as much as $1,000 per year

A family at Springboro or Lebanon High School could pay more than $1,000 per school year for their kids to play multiple school sports, while a similar family at Troy, Miamisburg or Oakwood faces no pay-to-play fee at all.

In Ohio, sports fees are up to each local school district, and their policies vary on cost per sport, discounts for multi-sport athletes and “family maximums” across multiple children. Tiny Newton Local Schools in Miami County is among the districts charging no fee.

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“At one-time (early 2000s) Newton did implement a pay-to-play fee for participation in athletics, but at that time Newton had financial problems,” Superintendent Pat McBride said. “(Now) extra-curricular participation is encouraged at our school. We want kids participating in many activities and playing on several athletic teams so that their educational experience is well rounded.”

Throughout the Dayton area, participation fees range widely – from $260 per sport with a $1,040 family maximum at Springboro, to $225 for most sports at Centerville, $100 per athletic season at Cedarville, $60 per sport at Kettering Fairmont, and no charge at all at Dayton or Trotwood.

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Some schools feature a family cap, where parents with multiple children or multi-sport athletes can’t pay more than a set amount. Springboro’s $1,040 cap (the cost of a pair of two-sport athletes) is believed to be the highest locally, with Wayne High School at $600, Centerville at $563 and Fairmont at $150.

Springboro spokesman Scott Marshall said pay-to-participate fees help fund transportation, athletic department staff and coaches.

“The district used to be a lot higher but it has worked it’s way down from where it once was,” said Marshall. “The board contributes $365,000 a year … the pay-to-participate pays for the rest.”

Some schools increase their pay-to-play fees because of budget issues, rather than make deeper academic cuts. In February, Beavercreek’s school board voted to increase pay-to-play fees from $150 to $250, as part of millions in overall budget adjustments, after voters rejected a tax levy.

Lebanon schools ($250 per sport) are one of the few fee-charging districts that have no cap on annual family expenses. Lebanon voters have not passed a school levy to increase funding in eight years, and the district has already approved one round of cuts.

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Earlier this decade, Wayne High School’s sports fees hit $428 per sport as Huber Heights schools faced budget woes. Athletic participation numbers for students in grades 7-12 dropped from 883 in 2012-13 to 738 in 2013-14 when the fees rose.

Of the local schools that charge fees, Kettering’s $150 family maximum is the lowest locally. Kettering schools spokeswoman Kari Basson echoed McBride’s comments on avoiding high fees because sports and extracurricular activities are an important part of a student’s overall education.

“The fees are not intended to cover the cost of the activities, but rather, to help offset some of the transportation costs associated with getting students to and from these activities.” Basson said.

Fairborn and Cedarville don’t charge three-sport athletes for their third sport. At many schools, if a lower-income student qualifies for free or reduced-price lunch, they also are eligible for lower sports fees. Stebbins High School lowers their fee from $100 per sport to $75 per sport in those instances.

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“District leadership works with the Centerville Board of Education to determine reasonable pay-to-participate fees that will help offset operating costs,” schools spokeswoman Sarah Swan said, adding that fees haven’t increased in six years. “Our Board of Education is always willing to work with any family that needs financial assistance in paying school or pay-to-participate fees.”

Carroll High School is among the schools that has a gradually declining fee scale, at $185 for a student’s first sport, then $170 for the second and $160 for the third. The annual family maximum is $675.

Another way that schools break down the pay-to-play fees is by particular sport. Centerville charges $225 for all high school athletic teams except boys’ and girls’ cross country, tennis and swimming. The cost for those teams is $180.

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High school fees per sport

$260: Springboro

$250: Lebanon, Beavercreek, Wayne

$225/180: Centerville

$200: Valley View

$185: Carroll

$150: Bellbrook, Fairborn

$125: Vandalia-Butler

$100: Cedarville, Stebbins, Xenia, Tippecanoe

$70: Milton-Union

$60: Northmont, Dixie, Fairmont

$50: Carlisle

$45: West Carrollton

$0: Dayton Public, Miamisburg, Troy, Oakwood, Trotwood, Covington, Newton, Yellow Springs

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