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Activity fee discussion teaches compromise
June 30, 2017


DELANO, MN – Respect, teamwork, responsibility, and time management are the types of things extracurricular activities teach students.
Does compromise belong on that list? Personally, I learned more about compromise in the classroom than on the court.
It’s a valuable skill and one I believe the Delano School Board and administration modeled throughout the discussion about raising activity fees.
That discussion began in April, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t heated at times.
Much of the emotion centered around whether or not students receiving free lunch should be charged for activities. Director Carolyn Milano researched the issue and reported that the vast majority of Minnesota school districts waive activity fees for students receiving free lunch.
Ultimately, the school board decided the local district should be added to that list.
Furthermore, not only did the board not increase fees for students receiving reduced-price lunch, but it actually reduced those fees slightly.
Both concessions were made after input from concerned school board directors.
A third point of contention was whether or not students in three activities should pay for the third activity.
When coupled with the increase, charging for the third sport increases the expense for those students by 85 percent.
Directors Corey Black and Al Briesmeister said the parents they talked to didn’t mind paying their share for their students’ third activity, with some wondering why it was free in the first place. By the way, the answer was to encourage students to participate in spring sports years ago.
Ultimately, the price increase for three-activity students was too much for Milano and fellow Director Rachel Depa to swallow, so they voted no. It is their right to voice their concerns and vote accordingly, and I respect that right.
What’s interesting to me is it seems like the board had the votes to ramrod the issue through as it was originally proposed.
But, that’s not what happened.
Administration worked with the board to come up with a solution that wasn’t just more palatable to vote for, but also better for the students who otherwise may not be able to participate in activities, which are such a vital part of a well-rounded education.
In my observation, Delano Public Schools work to get as many students involved in as many activities as possible, and that is applaudable.
Even with the increased fees, I believe that will continue to be the case.
I don’t say that to downplay the increase. I know it will affect some families more than others. But, according to High School Principal Steve Heil, no one has ever been disqualified from an activity due to inability to pay, and I call upon those in administration to ensure that practice continues.
Personally, I can’t relate to paying for fees to participate in an activity or to park my car. At the small high school I attended in rural Iowa, I had to do neither.
But, I acknowledge that things have changed over the past 12 years and the price of everything is increasing.
I also acknowledge someone was picking up the tab for my right to park in a lot or participate in plays and musicals.
Should all or even most of that responsibility fall on taxpayers, many of whom don’t have students at the school or attend school activities?
Probably not.
So, I understand the need for fees even if I’m not looking forward to paying them myself when my son is old enough to participate in activities.
Moreso than that, I understand the need for our elected officials to work together to come up with better solutions.
Few things are more irritating than watching bickering get in the way of solutions. And, few things are more rewarding than watching a proposal evolve as input is taken into consideration.
That’s what happened over the past three months, and I hope we can all agree that is a good thing.

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