18 schools north of Boston charge fees for drama, marching band and other activities
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If your back-to-school shopping includes joining the drama club or the marching band, parents and students may have to shell out hundreds of dollars to participate. Activity fees for extracurricular activities — not sports, but everything else — are being charged at 18 public high schools north of Boston.
At Wakefield High, joining the marching band will cost $260, the same as soccer or football. Other nonsports activities go for $100 each, with a cap of $200 on each student.
Fees for activities at Reading High are priced between $50 and $175, with a $450 cap per student and a $750 max for a family. At Masconomet Regional, serving Boxford, Middleton, and Topsfield, fees run between $65 to $200 per activity.
John Spencer, chairman of the Masconomet Regional School Committee, said the district has been holding the line in recent years on the fees, which he said are vital to raising enough money to offer a full range of programs.
“We’ve resisted cutting to the bone and we don’t want to undercut the quality of our programs,” said Spencer, who added that the amount charged generally covers about 50 percent of the cost of the activity.
Spencer said he is not aware of any student who has been excluded from a sport or activity because of an inability to pay. Like most schools, Masconomet waives the fees for students whose families are unable to afford the extra cost.
At Hamilton-Wenham Regional, those participating in an extracurricular activity this school year will pay 80 percent of the actual cost, which has yet to be determined. In 2011-2012, when students shouldered 100 percent of the cost, it amounted to between $85 and $200 per activity.
Some districts go the one-size-fits-all route, with one fee covering all costs. At Marblehead High, a $340 fee covers all student activities, sports, and otherwise, while Lynnfield High’s $300 fee covers all nonsports activities.
The Dracut School Committee, responding to pressure from students and parents imploring them to “save the music,” instituted user fees in July ranging from $20 per student to join the elementary chorus to $150 for band lessons for children in grades 5-8, with a family cap of $600 per year.
The fees — the first for a nonsport extracurricular activity in the town — are expected to generate about $104,000, earmarked for the music department, school officials said.
Members of the North Andover High School Drama Guild may have to start paying a $100 user fee. Parents of the students in the club actually are lobbying the North Andover School Committee to institute the fee, which would be collected by the schools and set aside for the drama club’s use.
Under the present setup, the school pays the adviser to the club, but the parents raise the funds needed for the productions. Laurie Burzlaff, School Committee chairwoman, said the fee would ease the burden on the parents, who raise money for shows and programs such as the residency program in Lenox run by Shakespeare & Company, which costs more than $30,000 a year. A director from the group comes to North Andover High for a couple of months each fall and mounts a full Shakespearean production, which is then presented in a festival in Lenox in November. About 100 students are involved. Burzlaff said the committee expects to vote on the fee on Sept. 13.
Meanwhile, the number of districts charging athletic user fees and activity fees at the middle school level and even the elementary school level continues to grow. In the Triton Regional School District, elementary and middle school students pay $50 or $100 for some activities.
In Gloucester, middle school athletic fees range from $100 to $380 for hockey. At Belmonte Middle School in Saugus, the fees are $150 or $250 per sport.
Other middle school fees for sports include $200 in Rockport, $150 in Marblehead, and $102 in Beverly.
Rich Fahey can be reached at email@example.com.