Middle school football players can expect to pay higher fees to play in the fall in Central Valley and every other middle school sport will be impacted by the school board’s decision Monday night to eliminate all competition outside the district for middle schools.
The budget ax finally hit extra curricular activities Monday night, and middle school sports were the hardest hit. All middle school sports will be reduced to eight games. Junior varsity teams will only be allowed to travel only with the varsity team. But the biggest impact will be the decision to cut competition outside the district, a decision that will also impact the East Valley, West Valley and Freeman school districts.
The board discussed keeping competition outside the district, but in the end decided to allow the cut. “This one affects our neighbors,” said Bowdish Middle School Principal Dave Bouge. “That may increase their costs. This would really require a whole revamping of the league.”
Board member Keith Clark said the cut may have been inevitable. “I think we’re heading there,” he said. “We might as well embrace it this year.”
A committee assigned to evaluate extra curricular programs and make suggestions on what to cut included athletic directors, coaches and administrators. They were tasked with identifying $100,600 in cuts. The group recommended limiting middle school football to eighth grade only to save $30,000, which found resistance from the board members. The cut would have meant having only one team and eliminating the current configuration of a middleweight team and a lightweight team, where students are assigned based on size rather than grade level. The two-team approach prevents larger students from playing against smaller students.
“My preference would be to keep the middleweight and lightweight configuration,” said board member Anne Long. “There’s a philosophy there. There’s a reason.”
At the high school level golf was spared entirely, but C-squad boys soccer was eliminated at Central Valley High School and the dance/drill teams at both high schools were cut. The board also voted to place a 200-mile transportation limit for all games except for regional and state competitions. Other groups such as band, orchestra, choir and debate will be allocated a certain dollar amount for travel instead of following the old formula that used mileage.
Board members were hesitant to cut the golf program after earlier promising that no single program would be cut. Cutting the program would have also made University High School and Central Valley High School the only two Greater Spokane League schools without a golf program.
Board president Cindy McMullen wanted to keep the program, but admitted to mixed feelings. “On the one hand, this is a life (long) sport,” she said. “Then I also look at the amount of time they are away from classes. This is really something that is available in the community.”
She favored trimming the football program because programs like Pop Warner and Grid Kids that offer football for those grade levels. “The opportunity to play ball is still there,” she said. “In eighth grade it’s there. I think we ought to follow the recommendation of the committee.”
“You could make that argument for every single sport,” said board member Tom Dingus, who pointed to club teams for volleyball, basketball and other sports. “Middle school sports are the only place where every kid can participate.”
Superintendent Ben Small suggested having students pay higher fees to play football in order the keep the program intact. Pay to play had not been recommended by the committee evaluating extra curricular activities, but the board members quickly pounced on the suggestion.
Players currently pay a $14 fee to join ASB and $26 for a helmet that actually costs nearly five times that amount. Raising the fee would help pay for expensive equipment and still be cheaper than the costs of joining Pop Warner and Grid Kids, Small said.
The board also discussed eliminating middle school “all league” events, but decided to reconsider when told that it meant middle school track athletes would only have four competitions. They directed staff to take another look at it and make sure that each sport had at least six competitions.
By the end of the night the board had made $111,450 in cuts, above the target of $100,600. The final number could change depending on how much money will be raised through football fees and what the board’s final decision will be on “all league” events.
In other business, the board voted to promote Evergreen Middle School assistant principal John Parker to the position of interim principal at Evergreen. He was one of five candidates for the position and one of three who spoke to the community during a forum at the school.