BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County families may soon be paying to have their middle school students play sports but probably will not have to cover the district's entire cost to provide those programs.
A majority of School Board members said during a workshop Tuesday that they could support a carefully crafted proposal that would set some charges for sports participation.
They agreed to solicit comments from the public to come up with a policy.
Board members said a fair proposal should probably have fees based on the cost of each sport; would feature lower rates or full scholarships for students who qualify for free and reduced lunch; and would offer lower rates for families involved in more than one sport.
The district pays about $200,000 for middle school sports, curriculum specialist Dave Schoelles told the board.
If the district asks families to share the load, based on this year's figures, it would mean a $117 charge per student.
The district does not currently break down the expense by sport, something that would have to be done to set fees.
Board member Dianne Bonfield said it would be reasonable to ask parents to cover about half of that.
"I wouldn't want to see anyone eliminated because they couldn't afford it," Bonfield said. "But I wouldn't be averse to sharing that expense."
Middle school principals and athletic directors strongly encouraged the board to continue funding middle school athletic programs at the current level, but agreed that a pay-to-play option would be a much more palatable option than cutting sports altogether.
"With the economic conditions the way they are, it's hard for parents to pay anything," chairman Pat Fagan said.
John Boyle agreed.
A parent of three students, including one headed to middle school next year, Boyle showed up at the workshop to defend the sports programs.
He said he would pay if he had to, but wondered how he would squeeze a fee into an already tight budget.
"The cost of everything is going up," Boyle said. "It's getting harder and harder to keep up."
Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.