Community does district’s job |

Community does district’s job

Steve Yingling

Did you really think that the youth organizations would be the sole sources of football and soccer action on the California side of Stateline this fall?

When the South Tahoe High Vikings kick off their soccer seasons Friday and Saturday in Reno and the football team serves as a host for the first Hall of Fame game on Saturday, a celebration is in order.

To keep Lake Tahoe Unified School District students on all playing fields is a major accomplishment. With parents and coaches working together instead of trying to save their favorite sports, an enormous fund-raising effort has run smoothly.

More than halfway to funding sports for the 2004-05 school year, Support South Tahoe Athletic Teams has salvaged at least the fall sports season and is well on its way to saving winter sports.

How many more families would have left town if STAT hadn’t formed late last spring and started the tedious process of raising more than $200,000 to fund sports at STHS and South Tahoe Middle Schools?

We all know someone who left the area this summer – fed up with elementary schools closing, prospects of their young children remaining on buses until 5 p.m. and forking out dough they don’t have to put their kids on a school bus. Certainly school districts just about anywhere else have more to offer than we do here.

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Raising nearly all of the money to fund sports programs isn’t too cool either, considering we live in what is perceived as an affluent town.

But the worst is probably yet to come.

Not to cast doom and gloom on the hard work and generosity of our community members, but it’s almost as if the LTUSD is crossing its fingers and hoping each of the homes for sale will be bought by parents with five school-age children.

That’s obviously not happening and the threat of a more serious budget crisis could come to light later this year. Once school starts on Sept. 7, district personnel should have a better idea of how much additional federal and state funding could be lost if enrollment is way down.

It’s not right for the district to count on parents funding sports again in 2005-06. An occasional golf tournament, radio auction or basketball camp could continually raise money, but nickel and diming community members year after year is an unreasonable plan.

Coaches like Dominique Westlake are prepared for the worst-case scenario. After practice on Monday, Westlake said his runners will continue to compete if the school eventually drops athletics. For sports like cross country, transportation is the primary cost of running the program.

But will expensive sports such as football and basketball be available to today’s youth athletes by the time they reach high school?

STHS may eventually need to scale back its sports offerings, perhaps following what Whittell High tenders. I wouldn’t want to be the one making those decisions.

Perhaps the Vikings could drop out of the Northern Nevada League and become an independent. They could play teams around the lake and in the Washoe Valley, eliminating expensive sojourns to Elko and Fallon and repeated trips to Reno and Sparks.

If enrollment continues to decline, the Vikings may someday end up dropping down to the 3A level and compete with Truckee, North Tahoe, Incline and Whittell. The time may be right to start a lake league!

There is much to consider in mapping out the future of the school district, but on Saturday when I go out to watch the Vikings’ season opener in Viking Bowl, I’ll just be thankful that STHS is one of the two teams on the field.

– Tribune Sports Editor Steve Yingling can be reached at (530) 542-8010.

Any family new to Lake Tahoe Unified School District who researched the condition of our financially troubled schools

More than halfway funding sports for the 2004-05 school year.