Coaches, parents and members of the Cedaredge High School softball team who believe their program is in danger of being moved appealed to the school board last week.
What's particularly bothersome, they said, is a proposal to move the program to Hotchkiss High School, which has never had a softball team.
Any Hotchkiss and Paonia students who wished to play softball have traveled to Delta to participate.
At the March 15 school board meeting, Coach Brian O'Hern said he understands the budget must be cut districtwide, but asked, "Is the answer really cutting sports programs?"
Those programs are the "core" of small communities, he said. Academics are essential, but they go hand in hand with sports, which motivate kids to keep their grades up so they don't miss a game.
"This is a team that is proud to play for Cedaredge," he said. "Take it from Cedaredge and it just becomes another team."
Many of the girls have played together since they were in the third grade. Softball is their passion, said Kristen Ahlberg, who spoke on behalf of her 25 teammates. "We want to know why this is happening to us. We have the numbers to outweigh [Hotchkiss and Paonia]."
After the school board meeting, district spokesman Bill Carlquist explained that pending budget cuts are forcing building principals to weigh all aspects of their programs. In small schools, especially, that means taking a close look at extracurricular activities to avoid impacting instructional programs. Later this month the principals will meet with the school board and put all the ideas on the table.
"No one likes this process," Carlquist said. "There's nothing good about any of this."
But it's not uncommon for student athletes to travel to participate in their favorite sport. For example, Kaitlyn Johnson, the 2011 4A Western Slope League Softball Player of the Year, attends Paonia High School but played softball with the Delta Panthers, a team that was coached by a Hotchkiss High School teacher. Girls from Cedaredge, Paonia and Hotchkiss who want to swim have just one option — join the DHS swim team at Bill Heddles Recreation Center. When the county boys' swim team was dropped due to low participation, male swimmers started driving to Montrose. "There have been kids doing that in multiple programs forever," Carlquist said.
The school district is also exploring the possibility of moving boys' soccer to Delta, since there is only one Hotchkiss student playing for the countywide soccer program that is based there.
Putting students on the road every day is a big concern, Carlquist said. Another is the possibility that an athlete will see less playing time if a combined team is more competitive. But economic realities have forced former school boards to make some difficult decisions in the past, including pay-to-play fees and transportation fees. Those types of decisions will not be any easier for the current school board.blog comments powered by Disqus