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Debate over sports fees and buses rolls forward

POULSBO — The collective wheel of the buses that transport students home from after middle and high school activities will be in the hands of North Kitsap School District Board members sooner rather than later.

This week, North Kitsap High School Athletic Director Trish Olson announced there’s a strong possibility the North Kitsap Athletics and Activities Committee’s recommendation to eliminate activity buses to reduce athletic participation fees will be presented to the board May 24.

Members of the AAC unveiled the 2007-08 proposal, which would result in a $70,000 savings that could be applied toward the fee reduction, at the board’s May 10 meeting.

Participation fees were implemented in 2005-06 to generate revenue for activity buses and other transportation costs related to interscholastic athletics. Many parents grumbled about the additional expense, which under the proposal would reduce the middle school participation fee from $35 to $20 and high school fees from $60 to $35.

“Students would pay for a maximum of two sports in these, fees. If they played three sports they only would be charged for two,” Olson said.

The AAC report to NKSD Board noted that on one bus driver’s activity bus run averaged less than 12 students and only 50 percent of those were athletes.

“The activity buses are far from full,” Olson said this week. “A large amount of the people that ride the bus aren’t students involved in athletics. If the activity buses are eliminated it would be inconvenient for some, but for the majority it wouldn’t have that big of an impact. The board will have to make a decision on it.”

Olson said often activities buses have already left the schools before many practice sessions wrap up.

“Many of the sports practices usually aren’t done by the time the activity bus leaves (typically between 4:30 p.m. and 4:45 p.m.),” she said. “This causes a problem. We don’t want kids to leave their practices early.”

Vikings fastpitch coach Bill Hobaugh has mixed feelings regarding the possible elimination of the activity buses for l students. Hobaugh said if activity buses are taken out of the picture, it would have more of a negative effect on middle school students than it would on high school students.

He said only three players on the JV fastpitch team ride the activity bus on a regular basis.

“By the time they’re in high school, most of them are driving ,but it will be an issue for those middle school students who do need a ride home,” Hobaugh said. “Some parents rely on the activity bus, but if it’s not there, parents are going to have to find another way for kids to get rides. I think parents could collectively work it out with other parents so their children can get rides home.”

School board member Dan Delaney knows how important it is for students to participate in extracurricular activities.

“If we eliminate the activity bus, it will be impossible for some kids to participate in after school activities,” he said. “It’s obvious that middle school students will need it more because they’re aren’t able to drive.”

Nonetheless, Delaney said it is important to attempt to lower the athletic fees next year.

“We don’t want to keep charging high fees for athletics and activities,” he said. “High fees discourage students from participating in sports. If we bring those fees down we will have more students playing sports.”

The NKSD is the only one in the county that offers an activity bus to students for after school activities.

“If most of the students involved in athletics and activities aren’t using them, then it’s something we will obviously have to take a look at,” Delaney said.

If activity buses are indeed eliminated, he said he hopes the community will step up and rally around its student participating in after school activities.

“If the activity buses are eliminated, I hope our community will pull together to help each other out. It could be a very positive thing,” Delaney said. “We need to make sure kids are involved in not only sports, but other after school activities. Kids involved in drama, band and choir receive the same kind of benefits. It teaches life lessons.”

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