For a student to be eligible for free lunches, his or her family must have an annual income below 130 percent of the poverty line; a family with income between 130 and 185 percent of the poverty is eligible for reduced-price lunches, according to the Food and Nutrition Service branch of the United States Department of Agriculture.
When a student is approved for free or reduced-price lunch, the school district sends a confirmation letter.
In the event a team participates in an out-of-state tournament such as the high-school baseball teams’ annual trips to Florida during spring break, the booster club must cover the costs of the trip for athletes who qualify for assistance.
The district does not track how many student athletes receive free or reduced sports fees.
East Jessamine football coach Mike Bowlin, who is the second-longest tenured coach at East, estimated that the percentage of East football players receiving assistance is in the low teens.
“I’ve never looked at it, but it’s not as many as I thought it was at one time,” Bowlin said. “It’s probably low teens, and I’m totally guessing.”
Once Bowlin and other district coaches have their rosters set, they submit them to the school athletic director, who compares the list to students who are on free or reduced lunch. Those who are on the free or reduced list have their fees covered by the booster club.
Bowlin, who has been at East for six years, said the number of student athletes who receive assistance has remained consistant.
East High’s school average for students on free or reduced lunch is at 44 percent.
West High’s school average for students on free or reduced lunch is at 38 percent.
Parks and rec sports
Nicholasville/Jessamine County Parks and Recreation also does what it can to provide assistance. Any child who receives free or reduced lunch through the school system is eligible for a reduced cost of fees to play in the department leagues for just $25 — a savings of about $50.
“We have never turned away a kid who has not been able to pay,” parks and recreation director Duane McCuddy said. “We somehow see that they play.”
McCuddy said the amount of participants in parks and rec leagues receiving financial assistance is right around the school average for students on free or reduced lunch — 52 percent.
In recent years, the department has seen an increase in the amount of participants receiving assistance in the basketball program.
In the softball program, which the department took over in the last year, very little financial assistance was offered or even needed, McCuddy said.
For the various racing events like marathons and runs, 100 percent of participants pay.
Jessamine Youth Soccer Association (JYSA) also provides financial assistance via scholarships.
If a family is approved for a JYSA scholarship, all fees for the first child are covered. If there is a second child from the same family, 75 percent of the fees are covered; a third child would be covered for half the expenses; a fourth child would be covered for 25 percent of the expenses; a fifth child would have to pay the full amount.
“We do that because it’s better than the multiple-(child) discount,” said Kirk Moore, president of JYSA. “It helps people in need, and we ask them to fill out an application and then we get approval from the board.”
Under JYSA’s multiple-child discount, the first child pays the full fee and then every child after that has a $10 deduction. The discount is available for everyone.
Moore estimated that JYSA gave out more than $1,100 worth of scholarships to between 25 and 30 players this year.
“Usually our scholarships are low, between 20 and 30 kids,” Moore said.
During the application process, families are asked to tell why they would like to receive a scholarship, and give reasons why assistance is needed and an employment history.
JYSA provides between $900-$1,300 of assistance each year. About five years ago, the assistance topped out at close to $2,000, Moore said.
JYSA has also allowed people to pay off fees in payment plans.
“That has worked out pretty well for some people,” Moore said. “We work with people with financial issues as best we can.”
Anyone who receives financial assistance is asked to give back via volunteering.