Philly Schools Now Charging Youth Groups To Use School Gyms - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Philly School District Now Charging Youth Groups To Use School Gyms

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PHILADELPHIA -

"It's pretty disappointing," said Bob Taggart. He's worried about the future of youth athletic leagues like the one his son and daughter play for in Northeast Philadelphia.

"Certain kids are going to get pushed out, and that's not fair to the kids," he said.

The School District Of Philadelphia is now charging for the use of public school gyms and fields for practice and games. They've been free for decades, but now it will cost $57 an hour to use grade schools and $72 an hour for high schools on weekends. During the week, it's free until 7:30 p.m., but if teams go until 9 p.m. the hourly rate kicks in then, too.

"It'll cost us $20,000 dollars at least," said Fran Young. He's the Youth Athletic Director for the Sommerton Youth Organization and said the programs will be cut drastically. Young says unlike most organizations, they have their own gym but still rely on the use of school facilities because they serve such a large number of kids.

"The exercise is number one. That's very important, but the activities also keep them off the streets," said Young.

The district maintains it's strapped for cash. But organizations say they can't afford to pay either.

"With the way the economy is, who has it?" questioned Taggart.

Sommerton officials have asked their City Councilman, Brian O'Neill, to intervene. But the city has it's budget problems, too.

O'Neill says council hasn't weighed in yet, but the fight isn't over.

He said, "Action has to happen. The city needs to dig a little deeper and pay for Saturday and some more time and hours during the week."

A spokesman for the school district says the changes went into effect before the end of last school year and that some organizations are adjusting and already paying the fee.

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