Some Barrington students must pay to play sports at school
It’s been a good year for Barrington Middle School sports teams.
The wrestling team surprised the rest of the league, going from a last-place finish a year ago to a state championship this year, and the girls’ basketball team rolled through the regular season and reached the finals before losing in a close, hard-fought game.
But the success of the programs does not ensure full funding from the school district.
In fact, of the 10 sports programs at the middle school, two require registration fees by the participants (boys’ and girls’ lacrosse) and another (wrestling) requests a donation from students’ parents to help cover costs.
The seven remaining teams — boys’ and girls’ cross country, boys’ and girls’ basketball, boys’ and girls’ outdoor track, and girls’ field hockey — are free to students.
“We’re doing the best we can with what we have,” said George Finn, the director of athletics and student activities at the high school and middle school. “A lot of schools are dropping their programs — Riverside (Junior High), Martin (Middle School), Cranston. We’re happy to provide what we can.”
State law dictates that public schools cannot charge students to participate on athletic teams. Elliot Krieger, a spokesman with the Rhode Island Department of Education, said the law clearly prohibits the “pay to play” approach.
“You cannot charge a fee for participation,” Mr. Krieger added.
But there may be some loopholes to the law.
In Barrington, the lacrosse programs are not run by the school department. A parents group runs the boys’ lacrosse team, and has done so for more than a decade, said Mr. Finn. East Bay Lacrosse, a private nonprofit youth sports organization, runs the girls’ team at Barrington Middle School.
“This is not a middle school-sponsored program,” Mr. Finn said.
The team, which wears blue and gold uniforms, reportedly plays other middle school teams from across the state. According to the East Bay Lacrosse website, the league charges sixth grade girls $200 per season and seventh and eighth grade girls $150 — the site states that the sixth-graders play more games, necessitating the price difference. There is also a $50 fee for sign-ups completed after Jan. 30.
There is a $15 tryout fee for the boys’ lacrosse team and a $215 registration fee per season. A team official said the money pays for coaches, transportation fees and referees.
The wrestling program is run differently. Mr. Finn said the Barrington Police Athletic League first established the program, but PAL officials are no longer involved. This wrestling season, the school department sent a letter to parents of students who were on the team and requested — but did not require — a donation to cover some of the costs associated with running the program. The donations reportedly went to a PAL wrestling account and then paid for transportation expenses, a coaching stipend and officiating fees.
Mr. Finn said there were just four sports programs at the middle school when he first arrived in Barrington. He added that he is happy to have expanded the total number of sports teams to 10.
He said budget demands limit the expansion of the middle school sports program, although he would like to see more sports added in the future.
“I’ve always thought volleyball would be nice to offer,” he said, adding that there is currently no league for middle school teams playing that sport.
More at the high school
Barrington High School offers one of the greatest numbers of sports teams at any school in the state, so many that even Mr. Finn loses count sometimes.
“Twenty six or 27 varsity sports,” Mr. Finn said when asked what the most recent total was.
That number jumps to 45 when including junior varsity and freshman sports teams. Mr. Finn said there is a great network of support for all the teams, including individual team associations and the Barrington Booster Club, which offers support to the high school and middle school sports programs.