Focus of high school activities expansion should be on youth

Posted: Sunday, February 15, 2009

The community of Juneau is currently facing a challenging opportunity: expansion of educational and extra-curricular options for high school students.

For more than 50 years, Juneau has had a single, main high school, but now we have two. As we know, change creates excitement and anticipation, and along with it stress and anxiety.

Splitting students, teachers and staff between two main high schools is a huge transition, and one of the most challenging components is how to fulfill the vision of comprehensive athletics and activities on both campuses.

Increasing activity programs is beneficial because involved students do better in school. Juneau teens now have the unique opportunity to choose which high school to attend, each with its own comprehensive programs. But this expansion effort is also difficult for two big reasons: money and tradition.

For many years, public funding of athletics and activities was very limited, so a strong, private club system - supported by generous and dedicated parents and boosters - emerged to support the development of new teams, many of which grew to be powerhouses in the state. For generations, our community has rallied for the Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears. Now, it's time to welcome the Thunder Mountain Falcons, and our kids will be watching how we manage this situation - because it's about them.

The good news is that in the last year, more than $500,000 in new public funding has been pumped into high school activities, and that amount will likely double during the next school year. It's more affordable than ever for any student to get involved. The tough part is that it costs millions of dollars to fully fund high school athletics and other programs. The vital partnership with booster clubs is needed to continue to make up the difference.

As high school activities directors, we have worked closely with the Juneau School District administration and with a community advisory group to figure out how to fund the existing Crimson Bear roster of athletics and activities, while launching a comparable program for the Thunder Mountain Falcons. Because students have the ability to choose which high school to attend, offering an appealing array of extra-curricular activities at both schools is fundamental.

This process, not surprisingly, has resulted in some competition between schools. While this is natural and understandable, we need to remember that this effort is about all high school youth. It's about working together to help more of our kids get involved in their school and to make it as affordable as possible for students, families and the community.

The school district next year will be nearly doubling the number of athletics and activities open to its high school population. Based on an initial roster put forth by TMHS, the district is assessing the availability of coaching, officiating, facilities, schedules and booster support for the proposed Falcons sports. That roster will be confirmed by the third week in February. The list of Crimson Bear athletics and activities will remain the same next year. The district will continue to assess the future of athletics and activities at both schools.

We are making a good faith effort on behalf of all students. Respectful cooperation, collaboration and communication are essential to this process and we are grateful for that sort of contribution and support.

• Sandi Wagner is activities director for Juneau-Douglas High School, and Rhonda Hickok is activities director for Thunder Mountain High School.

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