Once uncommon, activity fees are becoming increasingly prevalent at area high schools. Nineteen high schools in the Globe South region have an activity fee for co-curricular activities outside of sports.
If you want to be one of the 76 trombones in the marching band, it will cost you $200 in East Bridgewater, $135 in Dedham, and $125 at Oliver Ames High in Easton.
As the fees multiply, there comes a need to cap the fees. At Oliver Ames, there is a $600 family cap for athletic fees, and a separate $500 cap for activity fees. Both the band and chorus programs have $125 activity fees.
Of the 46 public school districts in the Globe South area, only seven schools have no athletic or activity fees: four vocational technical schools, which traditionally have few athletic or activity fees, and Randolph, Brockton, and Foxborough.
And then there are the middle school fees, which are also spreading. In Westwood, for example, middle school sports have a $125 fee, with $200 for football.
State officials have expressed concern about the fees but cannott act unless a fee violates the law.
“We are concerned about any impediment to student participation in the full breadth of curriculum, including the arts and athletics,” said Mitchell D. Chester, the state’s commissioner of elementary and secondary education. “Fortunately, most school districts make provisions to reduce or waive fees for students whose families cannot afford them.”
State officials noted that state law prevents school committees 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 department.