Council urges single sports program

Recommendation stems from concerns about school funding

Posted: Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Juneau-Douglas High School Site Council recently recommended that Thunder Mountain High School, under construction in the Mendenhall Valley, not offer junior varsity sports in its first year.

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The site council sent Juneau School Board President Andi Story a one-sentence letter last week encouraging the School Board to offer only intramural activities at TMHS in 2008-09.

School Board and site council member Destiny Sargeant said the question is primarily a money issue.

"Where are sustainable funds going to come from?" she said.

The school district has yet to reveal its funding strategy for the dual sports program offered in a preliminary plan last month.

Hockey coach and JDHS site council member Tom Rutecki brought the motion to the council in November. He said the request stems primarily from the quality of the school district Next Generation planning for sports, activities and academics.

"They don't even have the academic part planned yet," Rutecki said. "There isn't money to fund everything."

Story said she was unclear of the reasons the site council made the recommendation. The letter did not explain the rationale, she said.

As of November the school district was working to meet a quasi-mandate built from six months of public input to the original Next Generation planning process that called for more sports programs in an effort to get more students connected to education through extracurricular activities.

The school district's working proposal released last month offered a dual sports program with both high schools as members of Alaska School Activities Association. Only JDHS would have varsity sports, but TMHS was slated to have a junior varsity sports program with six sports that traveled to play.

Story said she is waiting to hear what the Next Generation Secondary Planning Committee recommends on Friday before commenting on the views of the JDHS site council.

"I know we're going to get there, but don't know about the first year," Story said. "I'm confident it will be ASAA one day."

School Board member Mark Choate said the current troubles with sports and activities planning in the district come from building a plan before knowing the budget.

"We tend to get the cart before the horse," he said. "Our goal is not to have as many varsity teams as we can, but to create activities and opportunities."

Most of the current sports budget, public and private, is consumed by travel. A recent announcement by a community task force created to find a permanent funding source for high school sports and activities said sports cost the community $1.8 million a year for JDHS alone. The school district pays only $75,000 of the bill, the rest comes through fundraising.

Half of kids are involved in no activities at all, Choate said.

"Take $800 from travel and you can do all sorts of stuff," he said.

Many in the sports debate believe that more kids would be served by one program at JDHS that allows TMHS students to play. They say if one activity at TMHS is part of ASAA, no TMHS student can belong on a JDHS team. So they argue that one program would allow more participation than two.

"Some believe it, some don't," Sargeant said.

With varied comments by school district employees and club sports coaches who favor or are against a dual sports program, Sargeant said she thinks the community will not entertain anything but two ASAA schools.

"They've asked for two comprehensive schools," Sargeant said.

The School Board is expected to vote on the final design of sports and activities before Christmas vacation.

• Contact Greg Skinner at 523-2258 or greg.skinner@juneauempire.com



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