CLAREMONT — The Claremont School Board aims to create a “Pay to Play” policy for non-district students to play on Claremont sports teams. However, one board member voiced a wish to extend costs to play certain sports to all participants.

On June 2, the board directed its policy committee to develop a policy proposal regarding non-district students who play on Claremont teams, which commonly occurs on the middle school teams.

The policy is expected to include a “pay to play” component, in which non-district students would need to pay a participation fee to play on a Claremont athletic team, as well as conditions to ensure that Claremont students are prioritized when filling roster spots.

Originally, the policy discussion, which began several weeks ago, concerned the need for non-district students to contribute financially to access the resources funded by the Claremont taxpayers, according to board member Michael Petrin.

Superintendent Michael Tempesta said the district began charging non-district students a participation fee this year, though that amount has not been set in an official district policy.

Tempesta said the policy should also establish rules to prioritize Claremont students over non-district students.

“I think the bigger problem is if a kid (from another community) comes in and takes the spot . . . of one of our kids,” Tempesta said. “That position could be viewed as a property of the town.”

The issue occurs primarily at the middle school level, because many smaller districts do not have the population size or resources to host their own teams.

Tempesta did not indicate how much out-of-district families were charged for their students to play on Claremont teams. The Eagle Times attempted to contact Tempesta by email, but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Board member Steven Horskey also questioned whether certain sports like football or baseball should require student fees for participation or equipment.

Horskey voiced concerns about a perceived inequality between what some students have to provide themselves in certain activities versus what taxpayers cover for particular sports like football or baseball.

“(It is) borderline discrimination,” Horskey said. “(For example), I have a sports-playing child who doesn’t cost me very much, fortunately. But my daughter, who is very much into music, there is (the cost for her) trumpet and clarinet. The costs of those start to add up.”

Th financial inequality also appears to exist between district sports, Horskey said, noting that students on the bowling team provide their own bowling balls and shoes, whereas for football, the district pays for the helmets, pads and jerseys, which may need frequent replacement during a single season.

Horskey did not specify a preferred fee structure but suggested the fee could tie to equipment or jersey replacement, which is commonly practiced in some school districts nationwide.

Horskey said his intent is not to burden families of athletes with additional costs, but to find ways as a district to “level the playing field” regarding the public spending toward specific sports programs over others.

Board Chair Frank Sprague said he did not have specific numbers but acknowledged from his time on the budget committee that the cost for some of those sports “are a big number.” Most of those costs, he recalled, were not for the player equipment, but the overall field or court maintenance, security for games and officiating crews.

Sprague said he would like to have future board discussions to learn about the operating costs and needs of these particular sports. However, this discussion will remain separate from the board’s pay-to-play policy matter.

Speaking with Stevens High School Athletics Director Doug Beaupre, the cost obligations for equipment are sometimes voluntary rather than policy-based.

With the bowling team, for example, the district would provide any student in need with a bowling ball. Though bowling tends to be an activity where the participants always have owned their own ball.

Many student athletes opt to bring their own equipment even when the school provides it, such as baseball bats, school officials said last week.

Horskey also acknowledged that the district’s music programs also maintain a number of instruments for lending to students who cannot afford to rent or buy one.

Beaupre explained that a football helmet and pads have to be reconditioned annually, as they are designated for safety. Students are permitted to bring their own helmets provided they meet safety certifications. Personally owned helmets also must be reconditioned annually.

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