Students who attend Ashland Middle or High School but live outside the district boundaries will have to "pay to play" sports this fall.

Students who attend Ashland Middle School or Ashland High School but live outside the district boundaries will have to "pay to play" sports this fall.

They'll also be charged to go to debate tournaments, participate in after-school plays or go on band trips.

The out-of-district students will be charged $100 per extracurricular activity, with a $200 maximum fee per student and a $400 maximum fee per family.

The cash-strapped district hopes to shore up its accounts by collecting the money from students whose parents don't pay the district's Youth Activities and Academics Levy, a property tax that benefits Ashland schools.

"The taxpayers of Ashland have put extra funds into the school district to help kids participate in sports and we just think there's a fairness issue there," Superintendent Juli Di Chiro said. "If you live outside the school district, you should be paying to participate as well."

The School Board was briefed on the fees at its Aug. 10 meeting.

"Our goal is not to exclude any kids," Di Chiro said at the board meeting.

Between 70 and 80 students who live outside the district's boundaries participate in extracurricular activities each year, according to Karl Kemper, the district's athletic director.

Students who can't afford to pay can tap into a reserve fund made up of donations to the district until it runs out — which it does every year.

Other nearby districts charge comparable pay-to-play fees, Kemper said.

He said he thinks the fees make sense.

"I think it makes it fair because families out of district are not paying taxes that specifically support our extracurricular programs like families that live in district are," he said.

Kemper declined to comment on whether he thinks the fees will discourage students from participating in extracurricular activities.

Ashland schools already charge all students fees to participate in club sports and some extra sports activities, such as trips to tournaments.

In May, the district's Budget Committee briefly discussed instituting a pay-to-play program for all students, but decided against it after school administrators and board members expressed concerns.

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.