Many countries, including Finland, do not offer sports at schools. Sports are community-based rather than school based.
I wonder if that could eventually become the U.S. model as schools struggle to decide which programs to jettison to cope with diminished budgets. I don’t see high school sports disappearing, but I am hearing about middle schools cutting back on their sports offerings or shifting more costs to parents.
Clayton County Public schools is negotiating with the county’s parks and recreation system to assume operation of its middle school sports teams in hopes that the district won’t have to terminate its sports programs to balance next year’s school budget.
As it stands now, Clayton’s school system needs to cut $16 million from next year’s budget. Scrapping the middle school sports program would save the district nearly $900,000 a year, superintendent Edmond Heatley told the school board recently. The issue is likely to be addressed at a weekend retreat where Heatley will present the board with a final slate of proposed cuts.
Although details are sketchy, school board chair Pam Adamson said parks and recreation would take responsibility for the middle school sports program and would likely use school facilities. Troy Hodges, Clayton parks and recreation assistant director, confirmed discussions were ongoing but could not comment on detail.
“It’ll be the same sports program we currently have but we’re looking for clarification,” Adamson said. She said she was encouraged by the idea because it would allow more students to play sports. The number of students playing on school teams is currently limited.
“I’m willing to compromise, but I just don’t favor [cutting middle school sports] at all,” said board member Jessie Goree, a former middle school teacher. “It’s a very vital part of middle school. Middle school sports builds character and teamwork. It’s a good connection between curriculum and sport itself. It’s not just for the athlete but [other] students as well.”
Opposition to the proposed plan has drawn opposition from parents, including some who vow to leave the county if the district goes through with ending middle school sports, Goree said.
Those sports affected include football, basketball, volleyball and track. The plan would not affect the district’s physical education classes.
A Hampton mother of 12- and 9-year-old sons, called the district’s proposal “ridiculous.” “I can’t believe it’s even up for discussion. Our kids don’t have enough physical activity in the school as it is,” she said. “My youngest one is ready to play football and is looking forward to it. If it’s taken out of the schools, the only opportunity [he] would have is for me to pay for him to join a church league. It’s $800 off the top for the uniforms, fees and traveling.”
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog