Frazee-Vergas Public School students won't have activity or regular-season game entrance fees this year.

Families in the district simply need to complete the Application for Educational Benefits to take advantage.

This application is commonly called the free/reduced lunch application. Any family that applies for this, whether or not they qualify, will still receive the activity benefits as long as they turn in the application.

The fee removal applies for Knowledge Bowl, FFA, Robotics, sports and more.

Activities Director Nick Courneya said that they have been working on accomplishing this for a while now, but "this summer it just started hitting more at home." He shared that there are a few reasons behind waiving the fees.

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"One piece is the district as whole knows the importance of getting students involved in activities," he said.

Courneya said he agrees with the research that shows the benefits students can get from being in school sports or activities, such as adding discipline, meeting other students they otherwise may not be around during the day, expanding their social lives and more.

"Knowing these factors, we always looked at how we can keep students involved," Courneya said.

Courneya is aware that the price that comes with being in activities may deter some families from letting their children be involved.

"We're hoping that by taking the initiative ... that (kids) will get more involved in not just one activity, but multiple activities," he said.

Finally, the state gives back money to the district for any student that receives free and reduced lunch. Once received, these funds go to many different places in the school, and will "offset the cost of our activities," Courneya said.

Business Manager Stephanie Winjum provided more insight into how those funds work. She said the district does not receive money from people simply applying; they only receive money when a family applies and is approved.

Last year, the schools got about $1,300 back per student. Through all levels of the Frazee-Vergas schools, 417 of 968 students received free or reduced lunch.

Depending on the number of families that receive free or reduced lunches, the school has the ability to appeal its activity classification.

"If we have more families that meet the requirements and we have a free and reduced that goes over 50 percent, we can review our classification," Courneya said. "We can appeal to the state to drop down a class."

This would change the teams that Frazee competes against, among other things.

Courneya and Winjum both said it doesn't matter if a family qualifies for free or reduced lunch: As long as they fill out and turn in the application, their children will not have activity fees and will not need to pay to get into regular season home events.

"Everybody has some pride in them and that pride sometime hurts a little bit, filling out that application," Courneya said. But if applying means the school may receive money, and the student has no activity or admission fees, it's a "win-win," he said.

Parents and other family members would still pay to attend events with admission charges.

The waived fees will last throughout this school year, which means that the fall fees are being refunded. This will continue throughout the 2020-21 school year, as the fee removal is on a two-year trial period.

In that time, Courneya is hoping to see a rise in the number of students participating in activities and the attendance number at their regular-season home events. Even if they don't receive the same amount from the state that the could have if they hadn't cut the fees, he said that "if we have a 5 to 10 percent jump, that was a worthwhile investment."

Neither he nor Winjum knew the exact number of applications that have been turned in.

"They keep coming," Winjum said. "Last time I checked it was about 30."

She does expect that the number will jump after the school's open house Aug. 28. They usually see an increase in applicants after that.

These applications are available on their Facebook page and school website, have been mailed out in their Back to School mailing and can be found at both Frazee-Vergas school offices.