For many families, back-to-school time can be hard on the budget.
There are school supplies and new clothes to buy, sports physicals and equipment to find. There’s lunch money and glasses and braces and all the other things students need to help them succeed. Multiply the costs by the number of kids a family has in school and it quickly becomes a question of choices. How much can you afford?
Fortunately, parents in Astoria did not have to choose whether or not their kids could participate in extracurricular activities. Last spring, the Astoria School Board passed a budget for this school year that eliminated activity fees for sports and reduced them by half for band.
In a new development in August, the band program chose to waive the other half of the fees.
The goal is to increase participation in sports and music for all students, particularly for those disadvantaged by poverty.
Extracurricular activities are more than just something for kids to do after school.
Young people learn that regardless of ability, you don’t get good at something without practice. They spend time with mentors, and learn to accept coaching decisions whether or not they agree with them. A team only works when members resolve conflicts and support one another to reach common goals.
Those life lessons apply to teams of all kinds — music, sports, work, family.
According to numerous studies done in the past 20 years, there is no question that students who participate in after-school activities do better academically, socially and improve their mental and physical health.
According to the Harvard Family Research Project, however, students whose families have higher income and education are more likely to participate in after-school activities, do so with greater frequency during the week and participate in a greater number of different activities within the week or month.
Cost is a barrier.
Randy Schild, the superintendent of Tillamook schools, said student participation in extracurricular activities jumped more than 30% since his school district eliminated fees four years ago. “The value’s just too good to pass up.” he said.
The Astoria School Board had conversations about lifting the fees over the past few years, but waited until it made sense financially. The fees make up about $75,000 in revenue.
Kudos to the school board for recognizing the value that extracurricular activities provide to students, and removing the cost barrier to participation. More young Astorians practicing teamwork is something we can all cheer about.