Grammar school sports in the red

Parents not paying to play
By: Kathy Maynard, Loomis News Correspondent
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Grammar school sports funding has been threatened because of a simple word change. Calling financial contributions for school sports “donations” instead of “fees” has reduced the revenue collected from grammar school parents by at least half, according to Loomis Union School District Superintendent Gordon Medd. Jay Stewart, Loomis District associate superintendent of business, said, “It’s become a perfect storm with less money from the state and less revenue from parents,” We have to look at these programs and make it known to the community that we need support to keep these programs going at the level they have enjoyed in the past.” The Loomis District is the only one in Placer County that has its own sports league, called the Loomis Basin Athletic League, Medd said. Sports played include cross-country, track and wrestling for the fourth through eighth grades; plus boys’ and girls’ volleyball and basketball for seventh- and eighth-graders. “The district pays for referees, coaching stipends, banners, trophies and athletic directors at each school, who manage the coordination and hire the coaches,” he said. In the past, the district collected a $30 participation fee per student per sport from parents, usually raising about $30,000 a year to help fund the $92,000 program. That changed in 2010 after a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union was settled with the state that prohibited school districts from charging students fees for any services or extra-curricular activities. “The program still costs $92,000, but to date we have only collected about $9,000, and track is the only sport left this year. If we end up with $15,000 we will be very lucky,” Medd said. There’s a lot of confusion connected to the word “donation,” said Steve Stahlberg, whose son, Pierce, is a seventh-grader at Franklin Elementary School. Stahlberg coaches Franklin’s eighth-grade boys’ basketball team. He is also a board member for the Loomis Basin Education Foundation, which raises funds for the schools. “I’ve found that most people don’t realize what the $30 is for. They see the word ‘donation’ and think it’s for something extra. The second misunderstanding is that the $30 pays for all the sports for one year, when really, if their child plays more than one sport, they need a $30 donation for each,” Stahlberg said. Ed Fardos, whose son is an eighth-grader at H. Clarke Powers School, and participates in cross country, volleyball and track at school, said, “We’re avid supporters of programs that help round-out the kids we are putting into the community.” His wife, Julia Fardos, is on the board for the schools parent teacher club and said, “Whether it’s the state or the families not coming up with the money, it’s the kids who pay the price. It’s hard to keep asking for more money to fund enrichment activities. But the risk of not stepping up is that our kids will suffer the loss of their programs.” “The program is not going away, but somehow we are going to have to fund it a little differently than we are now because it isn’t working,” Medd said. He said the district is looking at generating more revenue by better informing parents about the importance of their donations, increasing the amount of the donations, and giving the sports program a portion of the fees collected from renting gyms to outside groups. Cost-cutting ideas include shifting the expenses of banners and trophies to the individual schools, reducing the stipends to coaches, and hiring one referee instead of two for the basketball games. He said 100 percent of the tax deductible donations sent to the district marked for the Loomis Basin league for sports or athletics go directly into the sports program’s account.