Students ask for the elimination of activity fees
Shrewsbury – The Shrewsbury High School Student Advisory Council has asked the School Committee to eliminate activity fees at both the high school and middle school level, using funds from the payroll account surplus to do so.
In a presentation before the committee on Oct. 15, the council reported that participation in clubs and activities has significantly dropped this fall following the implementation of the fees, and that students are frustrated that they are paying too much for their education.
"It just keeps piling up," said Council President Claire Gutekanst. "People are starting to wonder what's coming next, what else are we going to have to pay for."
In the past few years, the School Committee has implemented transportation fees, athletic fees and, most recently, the student activity fee.
Fees had been implemented to help cover the costs of running their respective programs, but Gutekanst said the decreased participation caused by the fee is not worth the increased revenue.
"There were less announcements for clubs this September than ever before," she said. "Many kids are just finding it's not worth it."
Superintendent Dr. Anthony Bent had recommended earlier in the meeting that the School Committee do nothing more with the surplus funds following the addition of three new teachers at the elementary school level.
Bent said that although he was sympathetic to the students concerns, he again advised the committee to be conservative with the additional funds.
"This was not a particularly positive event to implement fees…but does the school committee want to eliminate fees when there may be a greater need in the future?"
Committee Member Marion Smith said that may be hard to hold off on additional spending following the student report.
"I'm very concerned about this one," Smith said. "[I] find it very disheartening to hear about this."
Smith said she planned to bring up the issue at another meeting in the near future.
Committee Chair Deborah Peeples said she was surprised more students hadn't raised the money themselves to pay for the activity fee, which she said would have been possible with the several months notice the students had.
But Gutekanst said the issue was less about money and more about principle.
High School Principal Brian Reagan is currently gathering information about club participation and fee collection, and will make a presentation to the committee at a future meeting.
In other School Committee news, while enrollment in Shrewsbury schools has leveled off in most grades, enrollment in grade nine dropped 16% this year, as compared to the 4-5% loss the district typically sees.
Assistant Superintendent Dr. Judith Evans said she is unsure why there was such a signifi- cant drop in grade 9, but that they will be looking into why people left the school system to go to St. John's, Assabet Valley Regional Vocational High School and other surrounding private schools.
"We don't know if it's a perceived lack of resources, additional study halls at the high school, maybe fewer opportunities to take elective classes," she said.
High School Principal Brian Reagan reported that 30 percent of sciences classes and half of the schools gym classes are currently overenrolled. He said this is of particular concern with lab rooms, which are designed to hold a specific number of children.
"If you put 25 or 26 students in a lab designed for 24… it's just dangerous, plain and simple."
With the addition of 7.8 full-time equivalent positions at the high school this year, Reagan said they were able to add an additional 30 sections of core classes, but that a lack of elective class choices was making it hard for some seniors to earn the 30 credits needed to graduate.
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