MERIDIAN -- School begins next week across southern Idaho in many districts and with that comes the beginning of school sports.
For a handful of districts, this also marks the beginning of a "pay-to-play" program where students pay a fee to participate in school sports.
Rocky Mountain High School is just one of many schools in the Meridian School District adjusting to having student athletes pay $110 per sport.
"I wanted to play, so obviously I was going to pay it, it was just different from last year. I wasn't really expecting it," said high school junior Cassidy Hammons.
Hammons is one of 24 girls on the Rocky Mountain varsity soccer team. She, like her teammates, paid the $110 fee on Monday.
"I definitely had to work for it, definitely had to get more hours in at my job, but it's worth it,” said Hammons. “I do want to play.”
One-hundred percent of the fee goes to the district to pay for coaches. Even though Cassidy and all her teammates paid the fee, her coach Donal Kaehler wishes they didn't have to, calling it an undue burden.
"I'm more worried about the kids that are on the border, the kids where families really can't afford additional fees," said Kaehler.
Like the soccer program, football faces the same issue.
"I haven't heard griping from our kids, but I've heard concern. I've had kids come up to me and let me know, 'Coach, we're struggling to find a way to pay for this,'" said Jason Warr, Rocky Mountain High School head football coach.
Warr says their best offense against this universal opponent is fundraising. At Rocky Mountain, athletes can sell the “Grizz Card,” a $20 discount card that gives the buyer discounts to local businesses.
All of the money raised goes towards the programs, and if enough are sold, some of the kids could have their fee reimbursed.
"I've always believed high school sports should be open to everyone," said Kaehler. "It's not all about having the great athletes, it's about letting kids have somewhere to be and give them opportunity and belong, and if they lost that opportunity, it's sad," said Warr.
"Pay-to-play" also applies to activities like band, orchestra and choir. That fee is $75 and goes to pay the teachers who have activities outside of the classroom.
The decision on whether schools are "pay-to-play" is made on a district basis, and not from the state level. Because of that there isn’t an agency that keeps track of which schools have incorporated this policy.