High school sports may be OK
It looks like South Tahoe High will have interscholastic sports during the next school year, but a huge budget cut is still on the way.
The South Tahoe Unified School District board will hold an emergency meeting on Friday morning at which the fate of sports at STHS and South Tahoe Middle will be discussed. With a Tuesday deadline to declare the intention for the Vikings to remain a part of the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association, superintendent Diane Scheerhorn expects the board to direct STHS athletic director Don Borges to keep the school in the fold.
“The board and administration are 100 percent in support of having athletics next year. It’s just a matter of how much the budget can support,” Scheerhorn said. “I’ve never heard anyone say they didn’t want to have athletics at our schools.”
Board member Sue Novasel agreed with Scheerhorn’s assessment.
“We really are looking at how to continue to have sports, not whether to have sports,” said Novasel, who has two daughters who play softball at STHS. “The bottom line is we’re reviewing the athletic funding and trying to come up with answers that will work.”
But the board appears firm on the $175,000 cut from the district’s athletic budget, the majority of which will come from the high school. If the cut is distributed proportionally between the two schools, the STHS athletic budget will be cut from $236,000 to $90,000.
The only apparent hope for budget relief is $210,000 in general fund revenue from a one-time land-lease deal. The LTUSD board could appropriate some of that money to athletics to cover the shortfall, but there was only a short mention of the possibility at the last meeting.
The “Fair Share” pay-to-play proposal put forth by the STHS adminstration last month appears to be completely out of the picture at this point. The fee schedule was based on a $100,000 cut from the high school athletic budget, which turned out to be an underestimation. More importantly, there are serious legal issues with requiring students to pay for extracurricular activities.
“School districts may not ask for pay-for-participation fees from students,” Scheerhorn said. “You can provide alternate ways for the community as a whole to donate towards the athletic program, but no one can force students to pay for sports and bar them from playing if they don’t pay.”
The middle school administrators will present a budget for keeping competitive sports at STMS, as requested by Novasel at the last board meeting, but that may be unrealistic if the school receives only $17,000 from the district. The school doesn’t have the level of booster support the high school enjoys, and principal Mike Greenfield’s plan to introduce an intramural system may become a reality.
“If the budget is cut, intramurals are probably the most realistic plan,” Scheerhorn said. “But we have heard from coaches and parents who feel very strongly that we should continue to have competitive athletics at the middle school. It’s something we definitely have to look at.”
Friday’s meeting comes after a week of discussions by the “leadership committee,” made up of Scheerhorn, Novasel and adminstrators from both schools. The committee isn’t authorized to make any decisions, but it’s where most of the work concerning athletics has been done over the past few months.
“We crunched out numbers and had a real good discussion, but we still need to talk about legal issues,” Novasel said. “We need to get a pretty good idea what’s going on by next Tuesday, because we’ve got league deadlines and budget deadlines coming up fast.”
Friday’s emergency meeting will start at 7 a.m., raising some concerns that not all parents will be able to attend. But Scheerhorn thinks people who are truly concerned won’t have trouble making an early appearance.
“I think the community moves early, and I think most people would be able to be there,” she said. “Parents will be up dropping their kids off at school at that time, so they should already be out and about.”
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