The ongoing discussion over the proposed Activity Fee drew a standing-room-only audience at the Feb. 7 school board Programs and Services Committee meeting.
At the , Upper Moreland School District superintendent Dr. Robert Milrod proposed an activity fee, designed to provide funds for specific needs of .
Since then, the proposal has been the topic of discussion at other school board meetings, as well as sent out in a lengthy, .
A large number of community members have consistently come out to these meetings, vocalizing a spectrum of concerns, and giving a ranged sense from total approval to cautious regard.
A Patch reader recently commented in the comment's section of a , addressing one of the primary issues with the proposal:
"In a time when childhood obesity is at an ultimate high it just seems a really bad idea to charge students to play sports. Particularly when some families are struggling as it is to [make] ends [meet]. I somehow doubt paying for their child's after school sport will be at the top of their priority list when the bills comes in."
In response to the comment, the president of the , a civic organization that supports the school district's marching band, explained the reason for the creation of such a proposal:
"...to adequately fund the co-curriculars a new source of funding must be found."
Hashing out such concerns was the objective at the Feb. 7 committee, as both the school board and public brainstormed a long list of questions about the activity fee.
“We’d like to focus on beginning to brainstorm,” Milrod said, addressing the large audience. “We’re not looking for answers.”
The questions will be given to the Ad Hoc committee for consideration. Last month, the school board formed the Ad Hoc committee with the intention of the committee reporting back the feasibility of implementing an activity fee. According to Milrod, the Ad Hoc’s report may be given in May, however any report will be totally contingent on the Ad Hoc Committee's own pace.
During the hour-and-a-half brainstorming session, the public and school board members came up with a list of approximately 55 questions, most of which were formed after heavy discussion.
The complete list of questions can be seen on the school district’s website (www.umtsd.org), where the questions have been placed into categories.
Two categories tied for most numerous questions:
- “Questions Regarding the Revenues and Expenses Connected to the Activity Fee Proposal”
- “Questions Regarding Other Options, Alternatives or Possibilities to the Activity Fee as proposed.”
In the questions regarding other options, a parent brought up that no other solutions were being presented, either than a “pay-to-play” plan.
“What I’m hearing here is that something is trying to be pushed through quickly,” Milrod said, and explained that a delay in exploring options to fund certain aspects of co-curricular activities, may jeopardize the existence of those activities in the near future. “With that said, it’s at the will of the community, as well as the board.”
He emphasized that the Ad Hoc Committee, made up of various stakeholders both working in-and-out of the school district, will ultimately determine the bredth and scope of the Activity Fee, if it should be implemented at all.
Another parent, who identified herself as the president of the Upper Moreland Primary School’s Home and School Association, suggested using in-school advertising as a way to supplement funding.
“I get the whole structure and the cause, but there’s another side that says there’s another check that I have to write,” the parent said.
She said she wouldn’t mind participating in the proposed activity fee, if the school district found other options of revenue, such as in-school advertisement.
“I would then feel that my school board and school district is doing something to bring money in,” the parent said. “I rather see that happen than sit and argue [an activity] fee.”
In response, school board member Al DerMovsesian said that the board has discussed in-school advertising in the past. He added that the parent's suggestion, and all the questions gathered at the committee meeting, will help guide the Ad Hoc committee on how the proposed Activity Fee should proceed.
“We have to remember that what Dr. Milrod is proposing isn’t just a fee,” DerMovesian said. “We set up this Ad Hoc committee so we can address the issues that are going to move forward. And, if we add the best of your ideas into this program, and we evolve it into something that could potentially fund our children’s sports and other activities for the far future – that’s policy.”
Other concerns that became questions dealt with the district’s communication practices, fundraising and the participation of economically disadvantaged students.
The discussion of the proposed activity fee will likely continue as an ongoing agenda item in the Programs and Services Committee.