A group of five Bednarcik Junior High School students voiced their concerns over increased club and activity fees to the Oswego School District 308 Board of Education on Tuesday.
As part of the school district's ongoing efforts to balance an anticipated deficit budget, a series of fee increases were approved by the board during a February meeting. Junior high athletic fees increased from $40 per student per sport to $80; high school athletic fees increased from $75 to $300 per student per sport; the fee for students to participate in clubs at their school was set at $25; elementary and junior high school students are charged an activity fee of $35; and high school students are charged an activity fee of $65. There are no discounts offered on the fees to parents with two or more students enrolled in district schools.
Bednarcik students Bryann Banks, Haritha Karthikeyan, Alvin Chapagai, Mayah Koushal and Nuria Kim expressed their concerns about how the increased fees.
"Although it is understandable that the district is not in an ideal financial situation, as students ourselves, we must consider the future of the student body and their opportunities to grow," Kim said.
The students cited a poll that they had taken, which showed that out of the 161 eighth-grade students at Bednarcik, all but three thought that the increased fees were, "overpriced."
Karthikeyan described her own situation, telling the board that she had previously been unable to join any extracurriculars, as both of her parents worked, and she needed to watch a younger sibling. But when her mother took a job that enabled her to work from home for part of the week, she decided to join the school's Sewing and Cooking Club. The original fee, Karthikeyan said, was $10, so she didn't think it was too much. But then her mother informed her that the district fee was actually $25, plus the cost of a project, plus a $13 cost for another project; totaling more than $35.
Banks also discussed her sister, a seventh-grade volleyball player, who had to pay $80.
"Last year, they had more opportunities like competing in tournaments and having more players on their team," Banks said. "This year, my sister and her teammates didn't have that opportunity."
As part of the district's budget cuts, the board unanimously voted to discontinue optional participation for junior high schools in meets and invitations that took place outside of the district; a move that would save the district $15,000.
The five students also provided options to increase revenue, like holding more fundraisers at district schools to help cover costs and lower the fees. Fundraisers held by the school's AVID students brought in $600, and similar events - with a small participation fee - could create significant revenue for the school, they said.
"The goal of these clubs is for students to find and nurture their passions," Kim said. "All we ask, is for you to take note of our voice for the future of students."
Board member Toni Morgan encouraged the students to take a further step.
"Remember that we are not the only group you can address, you are also able to call up and write things to your state legislators, and if you did such a thing, they really like to hear from parents and community members to know that the money that they provide us should be provided right on time, because that makes a big difference in what we're able to fund as a district," Morgan said. "If anybody out there is thinking about getting more money for things in the district, they could contact their state legislators."
Board President Brad Banks also praised the students, saying, "Not only did you come up to address your concerns, but you came up with some opportunities for solutions. I appreciate that. Maybe you can teach the folks on Facebook a thing or two about that."
The Board of Education will next meet on Monday, Oct. 22, at 7:15 p.m. in the Community Room at Oswego East High School.