BELL GARDENS — In an agreement reached Tuesday between coaches and administrators, football players and other athletes at Bell Gardens High School will be given until the end of their seasons to pay a transportation fee imposed by the financially plagued Montebello Unified School District.
Bell Gardens High Principal Maggie Rosette said Wednesday that no students will be stopped from boarding buses for away games this season, even if they fail to pay the $60 charge. She said she plans to develop alternatives for students who do not pay, although she said it is too early to provide details.
"It's not my style to make decisions like that autocratically and in a vacuum," she said. "It will come from discussions with the community and students, and collectively we'll come up with solutions."
Earlier this month, athletes were informed that they could not board buses or play away games if they did not pay the full fee, which is paid by their counterparts at the district's other two high schools, Schurr and Montebello. But junior varsity football players were allowed to board a bus last week to play a game at Warren High in Downey, where they won, 36-7.
Rosette and Athletic Director Charlie LaCommare said collecting the first installment of the controversial fee has not been as big a problem with other sports teams.
But in Bell Gardens, where football is king, the new fee met resistance among football players. More than a dozen players quit the team and several more threatened to quit rather than pay, Coach Dave Newell said last week. He said he feared that Bell Gardens would have to forfeit all away games, including Friday's 7:30 p.m. contest at Downey, the first varsity road game of the season.
LaCommare said he plans to collect the controversial fee in installments of $20. The first is expected to be paid by Friday, but LaCommare said he doubts that all of it will be collected by then.
"We're making an attempt (to collect it)," LaCommare said. "We got a late start. We're doing the best we can. It's hard on coaches and it's hard on the kids."