Still, after years of watching pay-to-play programs grow to maturity and then multiply over the last decade, Smith thinks they should be seen as a last resort.
"What can happen is what you see in amateur sports outside of school -- it becomes a program for the elite and that is absolutely not what high school sports should be about," he said.
"In most high schools, you might not be first-string on the football team, but there's someplace that you can participate in sports if you want to and put the work in ... but if we're going to charge fees and they're very high at all then only those that can afford will play."
It's not always that drastic, he said. Often, districts make allowances for lower-income students, usually by using a sliding scale for students who qualify for free and reduced lunch because of their family's income.
So while many people fear that pay-to-play will result in total stratification based on socioeconomic status, Smith said more often the consequences are less severe: students who play more than one sport drop the one they don't like as much as the others, or the one they're not as good at.
"If you're going to be on the court or the field Friday night you're going to find a way to pay that fee," Smith said. "But if you're third string you might not come up with that 100 dollars or whatever it is."
The impact that those changes could have on schools is up for debate.
G.A. Buie is a principal in Eudora, Kan., and president-elect of the National Association of Secondary School Principals. More than half of the schools in his conference have a pay-to-play policy, and he said his experience with them has been largely positive.
"We understand that our activities are so important to our kids but so are academics, so we're going to try to let the parents support the activities in addition to what they support with taxes," Buie said. "I think once you get over the initial change which is difficult for anything it's really not too bad"
The pay-to-play charges in his suburban school district are relatively low, in the $50 per activity range, and he says officials haven't seen a large drop in the participation rate.
If he'd seen that, he would worry the system wasn't giving all students equal access to the same programs. But as it is, he's just happy the system has found a way to continue to offer a broad range of extracurricular activities.
"As challenges continue to come up educationally one thing people always want to take away is sports, but I can tell you those are some of the most important things that we do that enhance what we do in school," he said.
"Plus, there are so many carrots we use to keep kids motivated academically ... when you take that away sometimes they don't have the motivation to go to school, or to do well in school."
The crux of the pay-to-play debate is just how "extra" extracurricular activities are. Their status -- as either an integral part of a student's education or as little more than an aside to their academic pursuits -- is still being debated nationally. It's likely that, if voters opt out of the additional property tax with the special election, that debate will soon come to Kanawha County.
"Our people in Kanawha County are very used to a lot of services that we give our kids," Duerring said. "And we're at the point now where we're going to have to examine it ... we've got to stay to the basic mission of the school system, to educate our children, and say we're not going to stray from that."
Early voting for the excess levy begins Saturday at the Voter Registration Office at 415 Quarrier St. in Charleston. The special election is Nov. 9.
Contact writer Shay Maunz at shay.ma...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4886.