For the first time since a pay-to-participate program was instituted, Pickerington students who qualify for free and reduced-price lunches will be required to pay a portion of fees assessed for extracurricular activities.

For the first time since a pay-to-participate program was instituted, Pickerington students who qualify for free and reduced-price lunches will be required to pay a portion of fees assessed for extracurricular activities.

Since the 2003-04 school year, those students have been exempt from paying fees to participate in school-sponsored sports, marching band, chorale, theater and other clubs and activities.

On Monday, the Pickerington Board of Education voted 4-1 to establish a sliding scale of fees for students whose families meet financial hardship qualifications.

The move means these students will pay anywhere from $225 to $315 less than others to participate in athletics and other extracurriculars. Junior high students could qualify to pay anywhere from $120 to $165 less.

"In the past, students who qualified for free and reduced lunch automatically qualified for free extracurricular activities," said board member Lori Sanders. "Basically, (the new policy) is a fee schedule for a financially-disadvantaged (student)."

In January, the board passed new pay-to-participate fees, which would have required high school athletes to pay $500 per student, per sport, and junior high athletes to pay $325 per student per sport. Likewise, fees for band, chorale and theater participants were set at $275 per student.

On July 11, however, the board approved reducing pay-to-participate fees to $375 per student, per sport for high school students and $195 per student, per sport. Fees for band were reduced to $200.

The new scale for "financially disadvantaged" students is as follows:

Households with incomes of $20,001 to $25,000 will pay $30 per student for junior high athletics, $60 for high school athletics, $30 for band, $25 for chorale and $25 for theater. Strings participants in that category will pay $10 and junior high and high school club members will pay $5.

Households with incomes of $25,001 to $30,000 will pay $40 per student for junior high athletics, $75 for high school sports, $40 for band, $30 for chorale and $30 for theater. Strings participants and high school club members will pay $10 and junior high club members will pay $5.

Households with incomes of $30,001 to $35,000 will pay $50 per student for junior high sports, $95 for high school athletics, $50 for band and $40 for chorale and theater. Strings participants and high school club members will pay $10 and junior high club members will pay $5.

Households with incomes of $35,001 to $40,000 will pay $75 per student for junior high sports, $150 for high school sports, $80 for band and $60 for chorale and theater. Strings participants will pay $20, high school club members will pay $15 and junior high club members will pay $15.

Households with incomes of $40,001 or more will pay the full pay-to-participate fees. That includes $150 for chorale and theater, and fees of $50 for strings, $35 for high school clubs and $25 for junior high clubs.

According to board members, the new policy seeks to establish more fairness among the fees, and will help the district offset costs associated with extracurricular activities.

The lone opponent of the new policy was Lee Gray.

He said he didn't oppose charging financially disadvantaged students some fee for extracurricular activities, but wasn't sure where the fees should be set.

"It's good that there's going to be some fee paid," Gray said. "I think I offered my comments to some of you that it doesn't go far enough.

"It's a positive change. I just think we still don't know what's going to happen in August (with the district's 5.5-mill levy)."

Board members said they expect to review the new fee schedule after the 2011-12 school year to see if adjustments should be made.

In other news, the district announced it has received a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for its comprehensive financial report for 2010 from the Government Finance Officers Association. It marks the 19th consecutive year the PLSD has received the award.

Board members also unanimously approved a resolution to adopt a calamity day alternative make-up plan. In concurrence with a new state law, the district will finalize a plan before Sept. 1 that would allow students to make up work online or via hard-copy lessons should the district cancel school more than five days in a given school year.