School board approves changes to student activity fees in effort to increase participation

Published 7:18 am Tuesday, July 21, 2020

The Albert Lea school board on Monday approved simplifying student activity fees and implementing a new approach in letting families choose how much of the fees they can afford for their students to participate.  

Activities Director Paul Durbahn said the issue is something he has worked on the last few months and is a step toward eliminating hurdles or negative stigma for students who may not be able to afford to participate. The goal is to reduce barriers for participation in activities within the district.

Paul Durbahn

The board approved a $150 high school athletic fee, a $75 middle school athletic fee and a $50 fine arts fee. 

When families go online to sign up for an activity, they will select the activity the student wishes to participate in, and then will identify if they can pay the full amount of the activity fee, if they can pay a portion of the amount or if they cannot afford the fee. If they can pay a portion of the amount, then they identify the amount they can pay and then proceed with paying that amount. If they cannot afford the fee, they continue signing up the student without paying any of the fee. 

Durbahn said the system will operate on the honor system where no questions are asked. 

There will also be an option where families can contribute toward activity fees for another student if they have the means and choose to do so. 

School board member Angie Hanson said she liked Durbahn’s recommendations but was afraid that those with fewer resources might have less opportunity to use the internet to fill out the form. 

Durbahn said there will be office staff who can assist families with getting set up on Chromebooks to fill out the form, and success coaches can help families get signed up as well.

Staff are also looking at translating the form into other languages. 

He said last year approximately 31% of participants in fall activities and 28% in winter activities selected some sort of relief under the district’s previous system, and in the district’s summer strength and conditioning program, 19% selected a reduced fee. 

In March, a survey Durbahn conducted found that 25% of students said that the cost of participating in activities was a barrier to their participation. 

Look to the Tribune for more information from the meeting.