Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is changing a policy that kept some students from playing sports who couldnt afford a $100 participation fee, officials told the Observer on Tuesday.
Students who qualify for free and reduced lunch at CMS schools now will be able to get a waiver if they provide necessary documentation. Students at schools enrolled in a special government program that provides free meals also can apply for a waiver.
Before the policy changes, both groups of students were not eligible to apply for waivers, and some of them were being left off athletics teams.
Earlier this year, CMS changed the formula used to determine which high-school students qualified for a waiver of the $100 fee. The fee had been required since the 2010-11 school year to help pay program costs. Previously, the fee was waived if a family qualified for free or reduced school lunch.
Before the latest changes, students could get the fee waived only if they qualified under a federal government program called the Community Eligibility Provision.
The CEP qualifies students using information from other programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the Temporary Assistance Program for Needy Families instead of traditional paper applications, according to its website. The free and reduced lunch qualification was dropped.
Now, some student-athletes can get their fee waived by producing the old free and reduced lunch forms, or a form from the N.C. Department of Instruction that became available last week.
Systemwide, 74 of 160 schools had more than 40 percent of its student population receive some form of federal aid, such as food stamps, Medicaid or were in the Head Start program.
Five CMS high schools qualified for full CEP funding, and all students at those schools get free breakfast and lunch: Garinger, Harding, Vance, West Charlotte and West Mecklenburg.
Students at schools certified into the CEP program will continue to have their fees waived. Students who do not individually qualify for CEP can still apply for a waiver. Those families will use the new N.C. Department of Instruction form that became available to CMS last week, according to Ann Clark, chief academic officer for the district.
Students at the CMS schools who are not getting schoolwide free meals can now get their fees waived if they qualify for free and reduced lunch and produce the necessary paperwork.
Sue Doran, CMS athletics director, said schools were notified of the changes Friday, the same day the Observer reported how the original changes were preventing some students from participating in sports.
Doran estimates that 38 to 40 percent of the systems roughly 4,000 athletes annually have their fees waived.
Doran said in addition to the waiver forms, students need to have all required documentation approved before returning to the playing fields. She also said CMS would reimburse families who paid the fee but now qualify for a waiver.
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