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NTPS eliminates fees to remove barriers to student participation in sports, activities

Students playing cellos in an orchestra class. North Thurston Public Schools Board of Directors recently approved a new fee schedule for 2020-21 which helps encourage more student participation in sports and activities, including elimination of Olympia Junior Program fees and athletic fees for students who qualify for Free/Reduced through the meal program.  

“One of our Strategic Plan goals is to increase the number of students who participate in at least one positive school or community-based activity,” said Dr. Debra Clemens, Superintendent of North Thurston Public Schools. Participation in at least one school sport or activity/club for 2018-19* for NTPS ranged from 16 percent/elementary schools to 58 percent/high schools. Participation rates in 2019-20 school year was trending up at both the elementary and middle levels prior to the COVID-19 school closure.

The School Board held a Community Conversation “Critical Thinkers and Solution Seekers” last fall around the goal. Based on feedback, they directed the district to “recognize the barriers to student participation in after school athletics and activities and to make changes to remove those barriers.”

Board President Mel Hartley shared “we are pleased that a wide range of clubs and activities have been added to achieve the target of all students feeling connected to school. Our decision to remove and reduce fees is an important step to ensure all students have equal access to our extracurricular programs. We know there is a relationship between participation in extracurricular activities and success in school.”

The following changes for the 2020-21 Fee Schedule include:

  • Elimination of Olympia Junior Program Fees of $5 per student per performance. This will be covered through the district’s Title IV grant instead.
  • Elimination of the Middle School Science fee of $10 per student. This will be covered through building budgets.
  • Field Trip costs will be determined as needed.
  • Eliminated Athletic Fees for students who qualify for Free/Reduced through the National School Lunch Program
  • Reduced other elective class fees to half prices for students who qualify for Free/Reduced through the National School Lunch Program 

Examples of the fee changes for Free/Reduced students include:

  • Reduction of high school band/orchestra/choir fees from $24 to $12
  • Reduction of Middle School art fees from $10 to $5
  • Reduction of College in the High School classes from $90 to $25

The district will also be working with secondary schools around data legislative reporting requirements regarding opportunity gaps in athletic program participation for students who are low income and students who have an ASB card. The goal will be to reduce this gap over time by working with the ASB student councils and sharing their data.    

*2019-20 participation numbers were incomplete due to the closure of schools due to COVID-19 in March, 2020