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Critics of school fee say it's unfair

SNOQUALMIE VALLEY - Used flute: $600; band class fee: $30; participation fee: $75. The experience of performing great music with your friends? Too expensive.

That's what some music students and parents are saying now that a new $75 participation fee will be charged to every band and choir student this fall.

The fee was approved by the Snoqualmie Valley School District Board of Directors earlier last month for all athletes and music students.

Athletic director and vice principal Greg Hart wrote the policy and said the fees were inevitable given the rising costs of transportation and coaches/instructors' stipends - the two main reasons for the fee. The money will go into one general pool for extracurricular activities. Hart said there will be "no microanalysis" of which groups cost what.

But with the number of trips for music students being a fraction of those sports teams take, some are calling the new fee unfair for music students.

"Music and band are included because they are also involved in competitions and band trips. We thought adding them into the program made sense," Hart said.

Band and choir students travel to three music festivals each per year. For one of those trips they share transportation, so the whole music department takes five trips total per year. Football alone has about 15 away games per year. There are about 17 different sports teams total (not including JV and freshmen teams) that travel to away games throughout the year.

Band director Adam Rupert and part-time choir instructor Kim Snavely are salaried staff members who receive the same stipend coaches do, though their payments are spread out over nine months, while coaches' are spread out over three months.

Band students have long paid a fee of $30 for their class budget at the beginning of the year and will continue to do so. Choir students pay a $10 class fee and $100 for choir robes.

Rupert said more than 90 percent of his students buy or rent their own instruments, which range from $600 to $4,000 to purchase or around $25-$35 per month to rent. A few larger instruments, such as the tuba and bass, are provided.

Of the 110 students in band, about 40 take private lessons. Private lessons are not required but those in jazz band are strongly encouraged to take them. Mount Si High School has two concert bands and one jazz band, as well as two concert choirs and one jazz choir. There is no orchestra or marching band.

"It concerns us in that it went to the school board meeting and passed and very little information was available. Basically we're asking students to pay for activities that in most every other school doesn't happen," Rupert said.

In addition to their music costs, band and choir students (and athletes) must also purchase ASB (associated student body) cards at the beginning of the school year. ASB provides some sports equipment but nothing to the music department, "Not in any way shape or form," Rupert said.

However, departments must make a purchase request through vice principal Beth Castle if they want ASB to pay for something. Money from the ASB cards goes to support all the functions that occur through ASB during the school year, such as homecoming, student appreciation day and purchases like student planners. Also, $8 out of every $35 paid for a card goes directly to athletics to pay for uniforms, sports equipment and repairs to equipment.

Prior to the participation fee, athletes have not had to pay for anything. Uniforms and equipment are provided, except in the case of tennis rackets, golf clubs, gymnastic leotards and gym shoes.

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