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How long before the moving vans roll out of town?

Steve Yingling

Watching Patrick Reilly, Kylie Noll and Jack Garratt dominate the Tah-Neva track and field championships on Wednesday in Carson City, I wondered if I’d ever have the opportunity to see these three exceptional and inspirational athletes compete for our community again.

The trio of South Tahoe Middle School athletes combined to win six events and set two school records at the area championships.

But these young athletes and their families – and certainly many more – are considering other options given the bleak outlook Lake Tahoe Unified School District is painting for the 2004-05 school year.

Since the defeat of Measure L in April, rumors have been flying that the school district isn’t ruling out the possibility of eliminating all sports at STMS and South Tahoe High to make up for budget shortfalls. Other plans are to get rid of nonrevenue sports at the high school and middle school and introducing intramural sports at the middle school.

If the district eliminates any sports at the middle school, there won’t be any left. For some students, middle school is the first time they’ve ever completed. Eliminating sports at this level may preclude some children from ever competing. That’s awful.

An Intramural program works fine for college students, but they aren’t meant for preteens. Middle school athletes need coaching and I don’t know if the district could get qualified coaches for all of the teams. Besides, the athletes need the camaraderie of competing for their school, not against each other.

Today’s special school board meeting should reveal what course the district plans to proceed with athletics. The 7 a.m. meeting time isn’t very considerate for parents who wish to voice their opinions. They’ll be busy getting their children ready for school and rushing off to work.

The people who supported Measure L shouldn’t be made the scapegoats for a community that has every right to be suspicious about how money is being handled by the district.

At the last school board meeting on May 12 district personnel didn’t have concrete numbers on this year’s athletic budget and administrators were inaccurate how much money was budgeted for athletics at South Tahoe Middle School. The figure presented at the meeting – $75,000 – was more than 1 1/2 times the actual $46,000 budget.

Parents are concerned that the district won’t allow them to fundraise or pay in order to partially fund every sport that is now available to student athletes.

“I was actually shocked that there was even a chance that they’d eliminate some of our sports when we’ve been told we would just have to pay to play,” said Melinda Garratt, who has two sons playing sports in the district.

If the district trims sports or encourages parents to pay large sums for participation, families will leave the area. In turn, the district will continue to lose funding and more cuts will have to be made.

Right now the district should be doing everything it can to ensure that families don’t relocate and that means offering the best product possible to students. Parents won’t have to look far for school districts that offer a variety of sports, music, college-credit classes and free transportation.

What really bugs me about the threat of losing sports is that the athletic programs really don’t cost that much to operate. It seems as if the district is trimming the icing instead of the fat.

We’ve all heard the rationale for children participating in extra-curricular activities: It keeps them busy and out of trouble, teaches them discipline and time management and how to work toward a common goal.

Oftentimes what they learn on the field of sports serves them better beyond high school than anything they’ve learned in the classroom.

So hold your breath today when the board meets an hour after dawn, or if you have the time, take that short trip to the district office: A handful of people are making very important decisions and they need to hear your opinions.

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

syingling@tahoedailytribune.com.


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