Fees to participate in activities like sports, choir or band vary within the Hamilton County school district.
And some of those fees will increase by hundreds of dollars -- especially for cheer and athletics programs -- after the Hamilton County Board of Education approved a new 2023-24 fee schedule Thursday evening.
For all schools, the art, science and technology fee -- a fee to help with the expense of supplies and offset operating and core content costs -- will increase from $20 to $25 starting in the fall. Parking fees will remain at $25. All others differ by school.
"There are some fees that are a set amount, which all schools may request of families as determined by the district," Hamilton County Schools spokesman Steve Doremus said in an email. "This is to provide consistency across the district on what's being requested. An example of this is the parking fee, which is set at a $25 price point for all schools with students who drive and park."
Other fees are determined by using historical data, Doremus said.
"(The) data is reviewed at the school level to determine expenses for a category over the last few years and what expenses are not covered by other means of funding," he said.
Cheerleading and athletic fees will see some of the most dramatic increases and decreases come fall.
Hixson High School's cheer fee will rise from $1,480 to $1,700, the highest program fee in the district. According to Hixson High's website, the cheer fee includes camp costs, bows, briefs, poms, shoes, sleeves and camp clothes. New cheerleaders pay extra for a warmup, fleece jacket and sleeves.
"Each school is different in the specific types of programs or classes that they offer," Doremus said. "For example, a cheerleading program at one school might only participate in football games in a school year, whereas a different school might participate in all athletic games and third-party competitions. The team that is participating in more opportunities is going to be a more expensive activity to conduct, resulting in their fee request being higher than another school's."
Lookout Valley Middle/High will also see a sizable jump in its cheer fees from a cap of $125 to $1,500.
Other schools, like Ooltewah High School, will see notable decreases. Ooltewah High's athletic fee will drop from $1,500 to $1,000, and cheer costs will fall from $1,600 to $1,000
Board member Rhonda Thurman, R-Hixson, said she was concerned about the extreme differences in the senior fees, which range from zero to $180 depending on the school.
"Some of these schools charge $175, some $25," Thurman said Thursday. "I'm not sure why. I don't remember there being such a discrepancy here on some of these fees. I'm not sure what the fees go for."
Superintendent Justin Robertson said some senior fees include extra things, like caps and gowns, which is why they are more expensive.
All fees are collected by school staff members and deposited into the school's bank account, Doremus said. They are to be spent on the class or program that they are being requested for.