Private fundraising could save some sports programs in Re-1 |

Private fundraising could save some sports programs in Re-1

Jeff Caspersen/Post IndependentGlenwood Springs boys swim coach Mark Bauer, center, confers with one of this year's team members at a recent meet at the Glenwood Springs Community Center pool. Funding for the boys and girls swim programs has been eliminated by the Re-1 school district, but private fundraising could keep the programs going.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – A private fundraising effort used to start a high school boys lacrosse team in the Roaring Fork School District Re-1 could serve as a model for other sports programs facing elimination due to budget cuts.

The Re-1 school board will ask a special committee to come up with guidelines to allow sports programs for which district funding has been eliminated next school year to continue by raising their own money.

Among the programs that could be salvaged if enough money is raised in time are the Glenwood Springs High School boys and girls swim teams and the Glenwood Middle School wrestling program.

“We have had some preliminary conversations with high school and middle school administrators and athletic directors about what would need to happen and when, and to get their concerns,” Re-1 Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Shannon Pelland said.

“One of the biggest concerns is that they have funds raised far enough in advance before we have to commit to a competition schedule,” she said. “One of the pitfalls is the long-term sustainability of funding programs this way.”

The district plans to organize a committee made up of school administrators and parents of students in some of the affected sports to come up with the fundraising parameters, Pelland said.

The boys’ lacrosse program, based out of Glenwood Springs High School, has already been in the private fundraising mode for the past few years.

“We didn’t really intend to be a model, but if we can be a model to help keep some of these opportunities for the kids, that’s great,” said Rick Stevens, one of the lacrosse team coaches.

The lacrosse program operated as a club team before affiliating with GSHS in order to obtain sanctioning from the Colorado High School Activities Association.

The team has been raising the roughly $12,000 per year necessary to fund the program, which combines students from Basalt, Roaring Fork and Glenwood Springs high schools on one team.

Organizers had hoped the district would be able to eventually fund the lacrosse program. But now it looks like it will have to continue under the new private fundraising rules.

“It’s a true district sport, as opposed to an individual high school,” Stevens said. “Lacrosse is one of the fastest-growing sports in the country, and our numbers are reflective of that.”

The GSHS team has 57 students on its roster this spring, and another 40 middle school students play in a club program based in Carbondale, he said.

“The reality is it’s going to be difficult for the district to fund it, so the more ways we can find to fund these activities and provide more opportunities, the better,” Stevens said. “We’ve had a lot of success getting businesses to donate, and it really seems to be catching on.”

Supporters of the GSHS swim teams are hoping they can find the same success in funding their program.

Many of the younger swimmers involved with the Sopris Barracudas youth swim team will soon be moving up to the high school ranks, said Kim Mechling of Glenwood Springs, who has two daughters, ages 12 and 9, in the Barracudas program.

The younger swimmers want to see the high school programs continue, she said.

Mechling said the decision by the district to discontinue funding for the swim teams was based in part on the limited numbers of participants in recent years. But with a strong feeder program, that won’t always be the case, she said.

The school district is already planning to raise the high school student athletic fee from $75 to $100 per sport. Combined with private fundraising, it should be enough to cover the estimated $5,800 to keep the swim programs going, she said.

Pelland said the sports fundraising guidelines will likely be discussed at the May 18 Re-1 school board meeting.

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