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School board wrestles with struggling sports programs

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By Carol A. Clark

A bleak but not hopeless picture of school sports and other extra-curricular activity programs was the topic of a presentation by Athletic Director Vicki Nelms Thursday evening.

While the district is some $35,000 in debt between sports and other activities, Nelms made it clear that no sport or program will be “completely wiped off the map.”

“I’m cutting from C Team and JV sports – 36 events – some on the road and some at home,” Nelms told school board members gathered in the district boardroom. “I don’t know what else to do … I was asked to bring this to you … it’s not going to be popular.”

The district will save some $7,000 by eliminating 15 trips to Albuquerque, she said.

Nelms wasn’t just talking about sports.

Financial troubles are worse in other activities such as choir, band and ROTC. If a solution isn’t found, cuts to extra-curricular activities will include certain games, field trips and other cost saving measures, Nelms said.

“Activities was more over (budget) than athletics and had athletics not gone to state – it would not have been over,” she said.

Nelms does not intend to cut from senior varsity programs because that would hurt the schools’ standing with state, she said.

“In the southern part of the state they are not cutting varsity at all but most schools are cutting from C-team and JV,” Nelms said.

The board, administrators and audience members including teacher’s union members spent a good deal of time brainstorming on ways to avoid cuts to these programs.

One idea was to approach parent groups from each activity and advise them it’s going to cost a certain amount to keep the program intact, so either hold a fundraiser or write a check.

School Board President Joan Ahlers told Nelms she prefers to put the situation before the public rather than make an executive decision about cutting from the programs.

“Some parents may prefer to pay $40 so their child can play an extra three games,” Ahlers said.

School board member Melanie McKinley agreed.

“I like the idea of an activity fee you can waive if you need to and add extra (money) if you choose to (to help cover low income students),” she said.

Board Secretary Jody Benson also advocated the idea of asking parents who can afford it to pay a fee.

Nelms told the board that the district already has it mandated that any student who goes on an overnight trip must pay for it.

Superintendent Mary McLeod suggested studying the issue thoroughly during this next year and in the mean time, charge a home sporting events fee.

The board decided unanimously to take that course of action.

Vice President Kenneth Johnson and board member Thelma Hahn were absent.