MOUNT VERNON — This school year, all Mount Vernon High School students — and some family members — will be able to attend home sporting events and other school functions for free.
The Mount Vernon School District is eliminating the $35 fee for the Associated Student Body card, which gives students access to school events, Athletic Director Chris Oliver said.
“That’s a barrier for some of our students,” Oliver said of the fee.
Instead, Oliver said every student will automatically receive a card, allowing them to attend not only sporting events but activities such as school dances for free or at a discounted rate.
“Every kid (will) be able to go to a football game or a basketball game and really feel like they’re a part of Mount Vernon High School,” he said.
For about a year, the district has been working with a national group called the School Reform Initiative to increase equity throughout the district’s schools, said Dan Berard, the district’s director of categorical programs.
“Socioeconomic status should not interfere with students and parents engaging in the educational system,” Berard said.
The idea to eliminate ASB fees was proposed by a group of Mount Vernon High School teachers who were looking for ways to make athletics more accessible to students, Oliver said.
The decision also aligns with the district’s 100 percent graduation goal, he said.
“If you can get students involved in your school, they have a much higher chance at success,” Oliver said.
At first, Oliver said the group considered eliminating the “pay to play” fees for student-athletes, which the Burlington-Edison School District did in 2015.
Instead, the group chose to eliminate ASB fees because doing so would benefit more students, he said.
The district will also give each student-athlete two booster passes, Oliver said, which will allow their parents or guardians a chance to see their student-athletes play.
“I think it’s important for parents to be on campus as much as we can get them on campus and to feel comfortable here,” Oliver said. “They, too, need to feel like they’re a part of the school. And they should not be singled out and not be able to sit in the stands and watch their child participate.”
At home football games, there’s an area outside the stadium where parents line up to watch their children play through the fence, Oliver said.
“I would look at it, and it drove me crazy that parents had to make that decision to watch from outside the stands,” he said. “They shouldn’t have to make that decision between watching their kids from the stands and paying bills.”
For those with booster passes and ASB cards, home games for all sports will be free, Oliver said. Tickets for away games can be purchased at a reduced cost.
Eliminating the ASB card fee will mean about $28,000 less will go into the student-managed ASB fund, district Finance Director Jennifer Larson said.
The district will make up half of that, she said.
Providing booster passes to the parents of student-athletes will cost the athletics department about $6,000, she said.
Whether the practice of providing parents of student-athletes with booster passes will continue next school year is uncertain, Oliver said.
“We know we can cover it this year,” he said. “We’re going to evaluate what we need to do at the end of the year.”
Either way, the district sees the move as a win, Larson said.
“We always strive to get our families into the schools to support their students, especially at the high school level,” she said. “Money shouldn’t be a barrier to see your child participate.”