Until recently high school and middle school students who wanted to participate in sports had to cover a participation fee. But this fall the Bellingham School District waived that fee, and participation has grown, in some places by as much as 47 percent.
Students on free and reduced lunch are broadly under-represented in sports participation, and the fee—instituted during the recession of 2008–2009—was prohibitive for many eager student athletes.
When we talked with Dr. Baker last year, he emphasized the district’s efforts to lower barriers to participation. In this decision we see yet another example of that commitment, and it’s paying off. Shuksan Middle School, which has the highest percentage of free and reduced lunch students in the entire district, saw its track and field team grow by 47 percent this year.