South Eastern School District students may have to pay to play during the 2012-13 school year.

The school board is close to adopting an activity fee, which the district would charge to any student who participates in extracurricular activities.

As proposed, the fee is based on a tiered system ranging from $25 to $200. Students would pay $25 per club or other activity, such as music and drama. Those involved in athletics would pay $50 per sport. No student would pay more than $125 per year and no family would pay more than $200 per year.

To ensure the system is fair to all regardless of family income, financial assistance would be available to students who receive free or reduced lunches, Supt. Rona Kaufmann said.

In voicing approval for the fee, board members said they don't want parents or students to misconstrue the purpose of the fee -- to help cover expenses.

Both the board and Kaufmann said a student receiving assistance would be treated no differently than one whose family pays out of pocket. Ability and hard work, not money, will still determine who starts and who does not, they said.

"Oh, no. You can't buy playing time. This is for us to offset the cost of extracurriculars," Kaufmann said.

All other eligibility requirements that govern sports and activities also would remain in effect. Students must still keep up their grades, have good attendance and follow whatever rules each coach or adviser has in place, she said.

Depending on student participation, the activity fee could generate between $45,000 and $60,000, Kaufmann said. The money would be used for transportation costs to games and events and possibly uniforms, she added.

The fee is being built into the district's proposed 2012-13 budget, which the board may vote to advertise during its next meeting 7:30 p.m. Thursday.