OGDEN -- A group of Ogden High School parents wants the option of in-school labor or community service as a way for students to work off school fees for things such as band instrument use and uniforms for football and drill team.
Ogden resident Camille Mortensen spoke for the group at a recent Ogden School District meeting, saying working for things helps increase students' appreciation for the activities and their self-esteem, as well as their focus and commitment to the school activity.
Mortensen said she never had to drag daughter Brynn, 16, out of bed for 5:30 a.m. drill team practice because her daughter had taught months of neighborhood dance classes to raise the fee money herself.
"Brynn had worked to pay her own fees, so when it got tough, she was already committed," Mortensen said.
Mortensen, who is Mount Ogden Junior High PTSA president and a member of the community council, said she represents a group of nearly a dozen like-minded parents, adding that every parent she approaches supports the idea of students working to pay off their own fees.
Currently, student participation fees must be paid by families, which, if unable to pay, can apply for fee waivers.
Don Belnap, president of the Ogden School District board, said that each year, Ogden High School and Ben Lomond High, combined, waive more than $100,000 in student activity fees. The Ogden School District has no work-off-fees program in place.
"I know our district has always been very mindful of keeping our fees as reasonable as we can," Belnap said. "We have discussed various options so students can participate and not have it be such a detriment to the various programs."
Years back, the Utah Legislature put the waiver system in place but did not fund it, so the cost of waivers is absorbed by the schools, Belnap said. In some cases, school budgets are cut elsewhere, or fundraising becomes a necessary activity for participating students and parent volunteers.
But the same section of Utah code that requires waivers also requires a work option.
Utah Code, 53A-12-103 (ii) states that, "If a student, a student's parent or guardian is financially unable to pay the fee, the board shall provide for alternatives to waiving the fee, which may include installment payments and school or community service or work projects for the student."
Belnap said he is open to the idea.
"It's a great suggestion, and something we have talked about in the past," Belnap said. "For her to come forward and bring it up again and offer a solution is wonderful."
How to administer such a program and supervise student work has been a concern raised in the past. Mortensen suggested that perhaps parent volunteers could supervise a program for students to work off their fees.
Belnap said further research and study would be required before a proposal could be written and brought before the board for a decision.
"But for her to suggest potentially that parents in both high schools could help if this were to come to fruition is very helpful," Belnap said.
Board member Shane Story said the issue is worthy of more study.
"Honestly, I do think it's a good idea for students' self-esteem to work and earn whatever they achieve," Story said. "I know it may be difficult to implement a program, but good things aren't always easy. It's definitely something the board will want to address."
The Weber School District does have a work-off-fees program in place, but interest is low, said Nate Taggart, district spokesman.
"It's something we've rarely done," Taggart said. "It's been a while since we even had a request."