Panel: Nix softball, hike activity fees | SkyHiNews.com

Panel: Nix softball, hike activity fees

Tonya Bina
tbina@skyhidailynews.com
Grand County, CO Colorado

Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi News

Participation could come at a steeper price, and girls softball is the sole sport targeted to be cut out of the 2011-12 East Grand School District budget, according to the latest recommendation from the District’s Accountability Committee.

As part of the goal of saving at least $35,000 from a $350,886 athletics and activities budget, the committee has landed on ideas to increase both athletic and activity fees, freeze coaches’ salaries and eliminate girls softball.

Cutting the fall sport out of the district’s roster of activities could save $12,000, according to the committee’s report. And freezing salaries could save $8,000. Increasing revenue by way of fees might generate $23,000 for the district.

The increased fees would include all sports and activities, from student council, to band, to any sport.

The recommendation – which is pending review by an administrative committee – raises high school athletic fees from $90 to $120 per sport and middle school athletic fees from $50 to $60. Also, a new $60 high school activity fee would be implemented, if the committee’s recommendation ultimately is adopted by the school board. The committee’s recommendation includes a $500 family maximum.

“Our research said that we were significantly lower with similar districts on what we were charging students for fees on activities and participation,” said Athletics and Activities Committee member Mark Birdseye, who presented the committee’s findings at an April 19 school board meeting.

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Although she said she wasn’t against establishing some sort of fee, school board member Barbara Ahrens wasn’t keen about the $60 per-student/per-activity amount for a new fee. “I strongly object to that rate,” she said.

“The reason for eliminating softball is there is not the number expressing current interest to justify having that expense on the budget,” Birdseye explained during the board meeting.

The committee arrived at its recommendation upon review of all sports in the district, he said, in accordance with a long list of criteria, such as “lack of interest.”

The 2010 Middle Park softball roster had just enough players to field a full team this year, with five of the players about to graduate. For next year, “We put out a sign-up list,” said Middle Park Athletic Director Brandon Thurston. “And nobody signed up for it.”

Softball is one of three fall girls sports. Volleyball and cross-country are maintaining solid numbers, Thurston said.

Preliminarily, according to Birdseye, it looks as though the East Grand district would still have Title 9 compliance without softball due to its proportionate offering of sports by the number of interested athletes. Thurston said any final decision would be run through the Colorado High School Activities Association.

The girls softball program started at East Grand in 1997, not long after the state had adopted the sport for high school. But as more club sport programs emerged, the number of athletes joining the team began to decline, said recently retired Middle Park Head Softball Coach Robbie Cheesman. In 2003, Cheesman led 24 athletes on the team, but the following year when club soccer began, some athletes left the program, he said.

Since 2004 to last fall, the number of participants has ranged from 10 to 14 athletes, Cheesman said. Even so, the program has seen its share of successes. In both 2005 and 2006, the softball team made it to the elite eight of Colorado.

“There are not as many kids in the school to support all the sports they have,” said the coach, who after seven seasons of coaching the game retired from East Grand for the need to relocate himself and his family to the Denver area to find construction work.

“Tough decisions have to be made in these times. I feel bad for the kids, but at the same time, I want to see the school district flourish,” he said.

“We didn’t want to see anything cut,” Birdseye said at the board meeting.

The committee also considered and rejected several other scenarios, such as eliminating middle school athletics, curbing transportation expenses, eliminating “significant numbers” of Middle Park sports and activities, hiring only volunteer coaches, reducing coaches salaries and relying on benefactors to support school sports.

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