HOLDEN, Mass. — The Honors Jazz Ensemble at Wachusett Regional High School in Holden is just one of the programs seeing what some students and parents are calling exorbitant fees this year, after the district's recent reductions included cuts to club adviser expenses.
Melissa Gale, a mother of a junior at Wachusett, spoke out at Tuesday night's school committee on the $400 activity fee charged to each student in the honors jazz ensemble.
Although it is "a phenomenal music program with phenomenal teachers who give it all their heart," she said her family was shocked to go from no fee to $400.
"We think this is very inequitable, and unfair to these groups," she said. "The honors jazz choir is currently not happening because only four out of 16 students even signed up to audition for it. That is something our community has lost at this time."
Although the jazz band is continuing, she said some students have not returned because of the fees.
"Athletic teams are charged $250, and they have many more costs associated with them, such as uniforms and buses, trainers to go with coaches, equipment," she said.
High fees were also added to activities such as the Model United Nations and Science Seminar, while many of Wachusett's other clubs remained without fees.
Principal William Beando has been meeting with parents regarding the additional fees, school committee chair Duncan Leith said.
"It's been a very unpleasant situation for him I know, as we've had some fees put in with the budget issues we face this year," Leith said. "I know he's trying to do what he can and will certainly continue to look into this."
The Jazz II band members had also been charged a $400 fee, Gale said. But after a meeting with Beando, the fee was lowered to $250 and the per family fee was lowered to $500.