Sports

Pay-to-play has little effect on participation

By CASEY OLSON

Sports editor

Despite plenty of uproar from the community regarding the new pay-to-play fees being charged by the Federal Way school district, not much has changed. Students are still playing sports in Federal Way at the same rate.

Participation in middle- and high-school sports in the district is down from 5,127 to 5,121. A difference of only six participants, according to numbers released by the school district last week.

“(The numbers) are eerily similar to last year’s,” said assistant superintendent Mark Davidson. “They are bizarrely close. We went over and over the numbers, saying ‘this can’t be the case.’ We were all really surprised.”

The biggest difference in numbers came at the high school level. Federal Way, Decatur and Thomas Jefferson’s participation rates this year were all down from the 2002-03 school year. Federal Way’s numbers took the most drastic downfall. Last year, the school had 727 10th- through 12th-graders participate in sports. That number dipped to just 472 during the 2003-04 school year.

But district officials credit that to the opening of Todd Beamer High School. Beamer’s enrollment territory now covers Illahee Middle School, which used to feed into Federal Way. First-year Beamer had 493 kids turn out this year.

“When looking at the numbers, people forgot we had a fourth high school open up,” Davidson said. “And Federal Way was a huge part of it.”

Middle school participation was pretty similar to last year, according to the numbers. Despite switching from a junior high (seventh through ninth grade) format to a middle school (seventh and eighth) participation fell from 3,265 to 2,773. And if you add in the 664 ninth-graders who played sports at the high schools, the total participation rises to 3,437 for the three grades.

“We just don’t have enough data for a long-term answer,” Davidson said. “It is going to be interesting to see what happens next year.”

The district thinks the 2004-05 school year will give them a better answer as to how the pay-to-play fees are affecting participation in sports at the middle and high school level. The first year is usually not a fair gauge of how people deal with a financial burden, Davidson said.

“We all agree that there are still kids out there who weren’t able to play sports this year,” he said. “And nobody likes that.”

The district has vowed not to raise the fees next school year, like they were planning to do. High schools will continue to charge $70 per sport and middle schoolers will pay $40 a sport next year. Officials had planned to raise the high school fees to $105 a sport and $70 at the middle schools, but decided against the increase after public outcry.

“People have been really focused on the prospect of raising the fee,” Davidson said. “So not raising them was considered to be positive news.”

The school district’s budget will be presented to the school board later this month and will be discussed throughout the summer. Final approval should come sometime in August.

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