By Sue Kiesewetter
FAIRFIELD - Mallory Collier couldn't imagine a high school that didn't have sports or school clubs.
Tim Crowe wanted his son, Sean, to have the same opportunities his two older daughters had at Fairfield Senior High.
That's why the two Fairfield parents got together with nearly 70 others in someone's basement after a school levy to pay for programs failed last March. They vowed to do whatever it took to make sure sports and school clubs would continue, despite the district's financial situation.
"I never really thought it would come to this point,'' Crowe says. "Now that we're here, you've got to do what have to do to keep (activities) going.''
The basement meeting resulted in the formation of PACE - Promoting Activities for a Complete Education. Its members got permission to run a pay-to-play program, and earlier this month the group made its first $250,250 payment to the Fairfield Board of Education to pay for fall sports, marching band and cheerleading. A second payment for school clubs is due next month.
The Fairfield parent group isn't alone. Similar groups have formed in Edgewood and Franklin schools. Such efforts are becoming more and more common as schools get squeezed on costs.
"I strongly believe that's part of the educational process - not necessarily the most important part from a parent's perspective - but the most important part to the kids,'' Collier says. "I can't imagine going through high school without extra-curriculars. That's what makes school fun.''
Parent Debbie Stockum has paid $1,890 into the fund so her two high school sons can play soccer and her freshman daughter can be a cheerleader. Unless a levy passes Nov. 2, she's looking at writing a similar check for winter activities.
"Obviously, I would like it to be cheaper, but I did not want my three children to not have the opportunity my older son had while he was at Fairfield,'' Stockum says.
Most of the money the group has collected came from the fees that parents are charged - $630 per student per high school sport. Grants paying up to 80 percent of the fees are given to low-income students, financed by fundraisers - a dinner-dance, bowling and golf outings.
Parent Kay Carran says she limited her three high schoolers to one activity each - two for her senior. "I made my children pick activities,'' Carran says. "I don't know if the clubs can continue to exist."
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