In a gesture to help families and to promote participation, the Sisters School District has announced that the pay-to-play fees for middle school and high school sports is being waived for the school year.

Superintendent Curt Scholl and high school athletic director Gary Thorson made the announcement last week.

Any families who have already paid for upcoming sports seasons will be reimbursed, according to Thorson.

“Our ‘Season One’ that took place with limited activity was no charge, so this decision is focused completely on the upcoming seasons,” he said.

Thorson said, “We have seen positive results from other school districts that have done the same and Superintendent Scholl made this a priority for our district. The benefits of cocurricular activities are crucial to the development of our students, and this removes a barrier for more participation from both the middle and high schools.”

Being able to offer families a financial break during the pandemic also played a part in the decision.

“Obviously this year in particular has been hard financially on many families, and the timing of this could not be any better,” said Thorson. “I am very appreciative of Superintendent Scholl and the SSD School Board making this commitment that will benefit so many in the community. They have shown great leadership during difficult times and we are lucky to have them in the positions they are in.”

The move is financially possible for the school district due to the fact that athletic spending has been almost completely nonexistent since virtually no teams have been competing since last March, resulting in budget savings on transportation, facility maintenance, officials and other expenses normally associated with athletics.

The Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) announced a new athletic calendar that begins in January in the hope that many, if not all, sports will at least be able to have an abbreviated six-week season.

The traditional “fall” sports are scheduled to begin February 22, 2021. “Spring” sports will begin April 5, and “winter” sports are set to start May 3.

Middle school sports seasons have not yet been updated, but information and details should be forthcoming in January.

Even though the seasons are now topsy-turvy, Thorson hopes that a record number of students will sign up and get involved.

“We all know that these kids have been isolated for months, so anything we can do to help them be able to access activities is 100% worth it,” he said.

Families can register students for sports via an online portal at www.familyid.com/sisters-school-district.