School system discusses pay-to-play plan, passes athletic contract |

School system discusses pay-to-play plan, passes athletic contract

Chad Sellmer, Tribune staff writer

The Lake Tahoe Unified School District school board put off a vote on the proposed “pay-to-play” plan Tuesday night at the district office.

The plan will not be officially referred to as “pay to participate” but will be considered as either an “in lieu” fee or a donation because state law reportedly prohibits a direct fee to participate in school-sponsored athletic programs. The school board will discuss the plan at its June meeting.

“You cannot ask for a fee for participation in athletics or music, but there is a way to ask for an in lieu fee or a donation,” said LTUSD Superintendent Dr. Diane Scheerhorn.

The plan involves charging $25 per student, per sport and would take effect in the 2003-2004 school year.

South Tahoe athletic administrator Jack Stafford thinks the fee is necessary for the district’s athletic programs to continue functioning normally.

“Something has to happen,” Stafford said. “The athletics budget is stretched to the limit. Washoe County is looking at the same issues we are. It’s not just here, but all over the country.

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“This is something we need to look at because nothing is getting cheaper. We have operated on about the same budget we had three to five years ago and we’re fielding more teams.”

Not everyone is supportive of the plan. Many parents worry that with two or three kids playing two or three sports, the fee could reduce the number of participants and negatively affect children in the community.

South Lake Tahoe resident Lorri Jack-Williams, a STHS alum and parent to two, noted previously that high school athletes are already required to purchase a $25 card, which is used for maintaining and upgrading sports equipment and facilities.

“This is going to eliminate the kids who can’t afford it,” Williams said. “All students need that opportunity. The best students are well-rounded and this will affect them.”

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the school board unanimously passed a new athletic contract for South Tahoe High athletes.

The athletic contract had been in discussion since April but was not acted upon until this week because the district’s legal team wanted to look it over first.

The contract remains virtually unchanged from the version discussed in April, except that some “teeth” were added to include suspension and/or expulsion for weapons or sexual assault, Stafford said. It is modeled after NIAA standards and Washoe County’s athletic contract.

“My feeling is that a strong athletic contract should be another reason for a kid to say no (to smoking, drugs and alcohol),” Stafford said. “This should not be a punitive tool but a positive tool.”

“I think that by this being so explicit, it does make students work at a higher standard,” said school board member Bernadette Santana.