Panel seeks more funds for school sports

District to consider extra $300,000 for high school activities

Posted: Thursday, January 08, 2009

As school officials begin budgeting for the 2009-2010 school year, they will have a request to consider from the high school sports community seeking an additional $300,000 for high school activities as the district transitions from a combined sports program for two high schools to separate programs for each.

The request is a continuation of a push to make the district's landlocked program viable and affordable to students and their families.

"The money is to supplant, not supplement," said Assistant Superintendent Laury Scandling. "Meaning we expect those savings to go directly to students, families and the community."

Scandling and the district's Activities Advisory Committee discussed new recommendations for the next school year with about 50 people who attended a public hearing Wednesday night at Dzantiki'i Heeni Middle School.

Juneau's school sports teams have historically been privately funded, with travel costs being one of the biggest hurdles. Before Thunder Mountain High School opened in the fall, it had been estimated the overall high school sports and activities program would cost $1.8 million.

The advisory committee, which was created last year to recommend ways to minimize cost as a student participation factor in school-sponsored activities, led a successful push to eliminate pay-to-play activity fees and secured an extra $500,000 in new funding from the school district and Juneau Assembly. The advisory committee is predominately made up of coaches and school officials.

For the 2009-2010 school year, Scandling hopes the burden will be closer to a 50-50 spread with extra district funding. The academic argument for shoring up the sports program has been that students who participate in school-sponsored extracurriculars tend to be more likely to graduate.

A concern some audience members shared was about differing athletics options confounding the school choice issue. Since students can pick which high school they want to attend, students might pick where to go based on the sport they want to play instead of the academic reasons. School officials don't anticipate having parity in the two schools athletics and activities programs until the 2010-2011 school year.

It wasn't an imminent issue this year because school officials received a temporary waiver from the Alaska School Activities Association, allowing Thunder Mountain High School students to continue to participate in Juneau-Douglas High School activities, facilitated by an after school activities bus.

That discussion opened another can of worms having to do with the ASAA board's rules that prohibit students from participating in a separate school's sports or activities. The consensus of the advisory committee was that fighting the state board was a losing battle.

The school district's budget must be forwarded to the Juneau Assembly for final approval by March.

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