Editorial: Middle school sports changes make senseBudget cuts in a school district are rarely popular and cutting sports isn't likely to win many friends, but Independent School District 196 has taken a reasonable approach to adjusting its middle school sports offerings.
Budget cuts in a school district are rarely popular and cutting sports isn't likely to win many friends, but Independent School District 196 has taken a reasonable approach to adjusting its middle school sports offerings.
As reported on the front page of this week's Town Pages, a task force that has been meeting since August has recommended the district eliminate football, softball and baseball from its middle school sports lineup and turn control of the programs over to community-run athletic organizations. The decision will likely not be popular among some groups in the district — particularly at Rosemount Middle School, where sports have drawn large numbers in recent years — but at a time when the district is considering roughly $15.6 million in budget cuts overall it's a common-sense way to approach a program that even with the cuts will not cover its expenses.
In part that is because there are reasons beyond simple finances to change the way middle-level sports are run. Competitive balance is also an issue. Those big numbers at RMS are great for the kids who play, but when other district middle schools don't have the same turnout it can be tough to find games. Middle school is a great time for kids to explore sports and find things they might like. It doesn't do much good to have three football teams when all of your opponents only have one. And traveling outside the district to find opponents starts to get expensive.
The biggest concern with the whole change seems to be what to do with the kids who used to play the sports that are being eliminated once the school day ends. They can still play in community athletic organizations, but those teams don't typically practice until later in the day. RMS athletic director Brad Schafer believes school sports programs can be valuable for kids who have nowhere else to go after the school day ends. For some those programs can make the difference between being productive and getting in trouble.
The district appears to have that concern covered, though, with a selection of intra-mural teams to be offered after school. It's not clear yet exactly what will be offered, but if the offerings prove popular it will go a long way toward making this decision successful.
Kids who want to play sports will find a way to do it. And while school programs have proved popular, the US system of school-run sports is not the norm around the world. This is a difficult decision, but we believe it's been handled well.