A group of Springs School parents and students are hoping to raise enough money to bring back a shared sports program run by East Hampton School District.
Parents are spreading the word about a fundraising campaign to collect money for sports that were slashed from the district’s budget last year. The money collected would be given to the district as a donation to pay for the program.
The teams that were cut include boys and girls track and field, boys and girls cross country, boys wrestling, football and boys and girls lacrosse. About 40 students participate in those sports, according to Mary McPartland, a district parent who’s been spearheading the fundraising effort.
Currently, Springs School offers its own sports in-house. Those include girls and boys basketball, girls and boys volleyball, girls softball, girls and boys tennis, girls and boys soccer and boys baseball. Historically, Springs has paid the East Hampton School District to allow middle school students to play sports that aren’t available at Springs School. But funding for those sports were eliminated in a round of budget cuts mandated by a New York State 2-percent tax levy cap last year.
The parents, who formed the Springs Athletics Booster Club, need to raise $35,000, according to Ms. McPartland.
That $35,000 includes payments to East Hampton but about $14,000 of that would pay for a bus to transport students from Springs School to East Hampton.
About 10 district residents spoke passionately about the issue at a School Board meeting on Monday night. Pressed for time—with a deadline for the funding looming sometime early or mid September—many of them said they wanted to implement a car pool system in lieu of bus transportation, which would result in a significant savings.
“The real issue that we have to grapple with is how much money do we have to raise and by when?” said Ms. McPartland last week.
School officials aren’t pleased with the idea of parents carpooling instead of students riding in a district bus. Superintendent Dominic Mucci said he was hesitant for a few reasons. The main issue he sees with the plan is that it could potentially exclude some children who don’t have access to a carpool group. Providing a bus would be the only way to ensure true public access to the sports program, he said.
“It can be a real sticky situation,” Mr. Mucci said. “But you have to look at it from all perspectives. And the first one’s going to be equitable, in terms of access.”
Even though the district wouldn’t be held liable from a safety perspective, the idea of six children cramming into a van isn’t appealing, Mr. Mucci said.
“I’m going to do what’s right, number one, and what’s legal,” he said. “I can’t put my kids at risk and I can’t put my district at risk.”
Part of the issue is that Springs will need to sign a contract with East Hampton School District to agree to pay the cost of the program. While some parents suggested funding the program partially, or paying Springs School back later in the year, it’s impossible from a legal standpoint, said school officials.
Parents said the real victims of the cuts are the children. Former Springs School Board member Tom Talmage said the district had a “responsibility to the children” to uphold the sports programs. Cuts to the programs, he said, “strike at what is the heart of Springs.”
The cuts send a negative message to students, he added. “It’s ‘Kids, we don’t care about you,’” he said. “We don’t care about your sports program. It’s chucked.”
Mr. Mucci emphasized that once something is cut out of a budget and then approved by a vote of the community “you can’t go back on that.”
Cutting sports at the middle school level disenfranchises students who want to play in high school, said Ms. McPartland. It robs them of the opportunity to develop experience and a competitive edge in high school.
The result is “kids sitting at home, kids sitting on the sidelines, kids behind the eight ball, kids giving up their favorite sports.”