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Board reluctant to see students charged game admission fees

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Once Rio Rancho Public Schools did away with the “student service fee” heading into the 2019-20 school year, Executive Director of Athletics Larry Chavez received input that would have placed the cost of an RRPS athletics pass somewhere between $25 and $60.

He ultimately decided on $30; that fee would allow a student to get into any athletics event at either high school.

Rio Rancho Public Schools Miss Indian Elizabeth Mae Riley, left, and RRPS Indian Brave Taylor Baca were introduced to the school board Monday evening, also making a few remarks about their platforms for their year of service. Photo by Gary Herron.

Currently, Chavez told the board at what turned out to be a 2½-hour meeting Monday evening, Rio Rancho High School students get into events at RRHS for free, but have to pay to see events at Cleveland High School, and vice-versa.

But in light of the transportation deficit, and breakdown of the district’s activities buses – resulting in chartering a private company’s buses for some athletics events – Chavez said he hoped the admission fees would help.

“I know it’s going to be a little controversial,” Chavez said, using the phrase “uncharted waters.”

He said how the $30 pass would pay for itself and then some once a new $3 student admission fee per varsity contest – or $2 for sub-varsity contests — becomes a reality.

Attending the school’s five varsity football home games would take care of half of it, and then there are dozens of volleyball, basketball, wrestling, baseball and softball games a student could attend. Only five more would mean the parent or student broke even.

Board members were in favor of discussing the item in a workshop before deciding on the fee, and board president Catherine Cullen said the matter should have first come before the finance committee.

Board member and RRHS varsity boys basketball volunteer assistant coach Ramon Montaño, aware of the scarceness of fans at those games except when Cleveland is playing the Rams, said his main concern was attracting more fans and the fee may deter them.

“It’s sad to see our student section empty,” he said. “(But) it’s a financial burden to some parents.”

When the board deferred to Superintendent Sue Cleveland, she said she was aware that most, if not all, school districts charge students admission fees to see games.

“We’ve always had gate receipts,” she said. “… (It’s) a way to generate revenue for things that need to be paid for.”

Board member Ryan Parra, an RRHS alum, said he had never had to pay to see athletic events when he was a student and preferred not to do so now: “We’re charging kids for memories.”

But, Cleveland noted, “This is a discount parents have asked for” and “Transportation continues to be a challenge for everybody.”

“This is a work in progress,” Chavez said, expecting to go through his idea at a workshop; he is due to present an Athletics Department report for the board in June.

Board members also heard from Mark Willis, director of Sodexo Food Services, who told the board that in Sodexo’s 23-year stint with RRPS, “43 million meals have been provided.”

Willis proudly noted that the district’s food service serves “healthy food,” about 40 percent of the district’s enrollment receives free and reduced food prices, and on a typical day, provides 3,064 breakfasts, 6,500 lunches, 744 snacks and 514 suppers. Plus, Willis noted, Sodexo annually provides $1,000 scholarships to a student at CHS and a student at RRHS.

In other matters Monday, the board:

  • Commended the two newest Native American royalty members, RRPS Miss Indian Elizabeth Mae Riley and RRPS Indian Brave Taylor Baca.
  • Commended a quartet of RRHS Master Dance students who competed at the recent Santa Fe Soul Dance Competition. Anavah Mecklenburg won first place, taking home a trophy and a $500 scholarship, with her solo “You Raise Me Up,” choreographed by Lois Moreno. Erynn Rider, Mary Giese, Tiffany Tortorici and Mecklenburg won second place, earning a trophy and a $300 scholarship, with their quartet “Glory,” choreographed by Kaitlyn Lerma.
  • Approved the application for a $300,000 schools security project that would land $189,000 from the state, to go with $111,000 from the district, for “an updated camera system server” and additional security cameras at CHS, RRHS and the four middle schools.
  • Heard a report from Jerry Reeder, the executive director of Special Services, who noted the growth of students with special needs in the district and a national shortage of special education teachers.
  • Lauded RRPS Special Events Specialist Claudia Valdez, credited for leading RRPS employees to donate more than $116,000 to the United Way.

OK’d an annual joint powers agreement with the New Mexico School for the Deaf for its preschool/kindergarten program.