Sequim schools prep cuts to athletic programs

Nothing is safe from the state's economic slump - not even high school football or middle school volleyball.

Sequim school officials are preparing up to $100,000 in cuts to athletic programs at middle and high school levels for the 2009-2010 academic year.

The Sequim school board is scheduled to adopt its annual budget on Thursday, Aug. 20, an economic plan shedding about $1 million in overall cuts from what Sequim schools offered the previous year.

Those cuts triggered pay-to-participate fees and effectively eliminated high school C-teams and middle school junior varsity teams.

Dave Ditlefsen, Sequim High School's athletic director, prepared a four-tiered proposal for school board directors in June, the most extreme mirroring the six-figure cut to an annual $400,000 district athletic program.

"I'm not expecting any of it back at this point," Ditlefsen said this week.

While freshman-level teams at the high school and middle school junior varsity teams are cut, coaches have the option of bringing some of them back by using volunteers, splitting stipends for assistants, offering limited home-game-only contests or hitching rides with varsity/JV teams.

Some high school varsity coaches may opt to keep much larger junior varsity teams to keep athletes in the program, Ditlefsen said.

"I think everyone understands the situation we're in," Ditlefsen said. "It's not a huge shock."

Ditlefsen received approval of a plan in May to institute a pay-to-participate program. The program requires a per-sport, per-athlete fee of $75 at the high school and $50 at the middle school. The program has maximums per athlete and family, and reduced fee rates for student-athletes on the district's free and reduced lunch programs.

Neighboring districts Port Angeles, Port Townsend and Chimacum have used a $50 per sport fee in the past.

"I don't think that's the long-term plan," Ditlefsen said. "(Board members) don't want to charge

families. They're hoping it's a temporary thing. That's the indication I get."

Sequim offers 18 high school sports and eight middle school sports, serving an estimated 890 athletes next school year (600 at the high school, 290 at the middle school).

With the fees, Sequim administrators look to recoup about $46,500 of the $100,000 shortfall.

Pay-to-participate programs aren't uncommon in Washington. In addition to Associated Student Body fees, athletes in Central Kitsap, North Kitsap, North Mason, Vashon and Peninsula (Gig Harbor) school districts each pay a fee, while those in Bremerton, Auburn, Shelton, Sumner and Tacoma don't.

Reach Michael Dashiell at miked@sequim

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