Middle school fees, activity fees on rise west of Boston

While athletic fees have long since become the norm at high schools in Eastern Massachusetts, the number of activity fees in area high schools, and the number of middle schools charging fees for sports and activities are escalating rapidly.

There are only seven public high schools among more than 50 area communities that have no athletic user fees.

Four of them — Assabet Valley Regional Technical, Minuteman, Keefe Technical, and Nashoba Valley Technical — are technical-vocational schools, which traditionally have few or no student fees, while the others are the high schools in Bedford, Waltham, and Weston.

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Thirteen area high school districts now report charging an activity fee.

The amounts range from $25 per activity at Medfield High to $200 per activity at Westborough High, which has a $500 cap.

In Newton, it costs students $150 to participate in a drama production.

Meanwhile, fees for middle school sports continue to grow in size and scope.

At Groton-Dunstable Regional Middle School, the fee is $210 per sport, with a $1,000 family cap between the district’s middle and high schools.

Newton students pay $160 per middle school sport, with a $480 family cap.  

The athletic and activity fee at Fowler Middle School in Maynard is $200 for the first student and $100 for the second in a family, while in Hopkinton, middle school students pay $150 per sport.

Medway Middle School students pay a $235 athletic fee per sport.

In Natick, the Wilson and Kennedy middle schools charge $150 per sport, and the activity fee is $50.

In Belmont, playing sports at the Chenery Middle School will set you back a one-time $150 fee.  

The Gibbons Middle School in Westborough has a $200 fee per activity, which is the same as for Westborough High students, but the family contribution is still capped at $500.

State officials have expressed concern, but say they have limited power when it comes to school fees.

“We are concerned about any impediment to student participation in the full breadth of curriculum, including the arts and athletics,” said Mitchell Chester, commissioner of the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

“Fortunately, most school districts make provisions to reduce or waive fees for students whose families cannot afford them,” Chester said.

State officials note local school boards set fees, and state law prevents them from charging for anything that is part of the basic academic program.

“Generally, where fees are permitted, they are for sports and after-school activities, full-day kindergarten, and busing, except where busing is required by law,” said Lauren Greene, a spokeswoman for the state education agency.