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Community Gives New Athletic Fee Gets Low Score

Fee of $100 per child, per sport to take effect next year in Fairfax County Public Schools.

South County parent Paul Haynes is used to spending a few extra dollars from his budget to help support his three children’s youth athletic careers.

His son plays for the South County football team, his daughter for the South County softball team and he has a rising freshman that will want to join the school's sports teams as well.

But at the start of the 2010-11 sports seasons, he'll have to dish out an additional $100 per child, per sport if they want to play for the Stallions. The total cost could reach $900 if each of his three children decide to play three sports a year.

"I do not like it," he said. "If they want to raise money, it could have some negative effects elsewhere. I just think it's a bad idea."

The Fairfax County School Board voted 9-3 on May 20 to require the $100 sports fee .

The Haynes family has little recourse now other than to pencil in the expense in their budget for next season.

"I do not feel it is right, but I do not mind [paying the fee]," said Annette Haynes, Paul's wife. "It’s out job as parents to get kids interested in sports and involved to these activities."

School Board members Tina Hone (At-large), Sandy Evans (Mason) and Patty Reed (Providence) voted against the fee.

"These fees touch such a large swath of students," Hone said.

Evans, Reed and Hone supported a motion to remove the fee entirely, which failed. The three, along with School Board member Dan Storck (Mount Vernon), supported another motion to make the fee a one-time expense for students, but that failed as well.

"Sports are clearly a game changer for some kids," Storck said.

While Storck supported the fees, he said he wants the school system to monitor the situation closely.

Money generated from the fee will go into the county's general fund and is expected to generate $1.8 million in revenue. Students who qualify for a free or reduced-priced lunch are exempt from paying the fee. However, that standard is extremely low. A family of four must be living on $41,000 per year in Fairfax County to qualify for reduced-priced lunches.

The average median income for Fairfax County households is more than $100,000.

Some are worried the fee might prevent students from participating in as many as three sports in a year, or any sports at all.

"Small schools are afraid they won't be able to field teams," Reed said.

Evans said that some sports programs at Loudoun County Public Schools, with lower-income families, have been affected since a high school sports fee took effect last year. Park View High School has seen a drop off in the number of students participating in track this spring.

At a Lake Braddock baseball game, parent Carol Church echoed the worries of many parents in the region.

The cost is just too high.

"It's a lot per child," she said. "Especially if there are multi-sport families. One hundred dollars is just too high."

Julia O'Donoghue and R. Kyle Rosenbluth contributed to this report.