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School's gymnastics program might be cut

June 17, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. -- A financial crunch has left the Waynesboro Area School District's gymnastics team teetering as if it's on a balance beam.

At least one school board member says the gymnastics program costs too much for too few participants, potentially placing it on the chopping block for the 2009-10 budget. That $50 million budget is scheduled to be adopted in its final form next Tuesday.

Pat Heefner said she appreciates the success of the gymnastics team, but she said the $3,095 per-pupil cost jumps out at her from budget documents.

Comparatively, basketball costs the district $1,083 per student and wrestling $815 per student.

"You sat here tonight and saw where we are in our deficit," Heefner said Tuesday to a student gymnast and her mother.

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That anticipated deficit, currently at $511,861, has been whittled down in recent weeks from almost twice the original amount. To do so, though, the board has tentatively agreed to cut summer school and several teacher aide positions. It also indicated the amount dedicated to building repairs might be cut in half.

Sherry Cline, a mother of three children, including one on the gymnastics team, appealed for the future of the team, which she said usually starts with 12 participants and loses some as scores don't qualify.

"Gymnastics is about balance, strength, work ethic and team commitment. ... Also, this team should be commended for high academic achievement," Cline said, saying teenagers are eligible for scholarships when they combine their athletic and scholastic abilities.

Athletic Director Dan McLaughlin said the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) sponsors just 15 gymnastics teams in the state, with Waynesboro and Chambersburg as the only ones in the district. The state championships are actually an invitational because not enough teams are sponsored by PIAA, he said.

Sometimes the school sponsors individual athletes to obtain PIAA scores and times when there is little participation in the sport as a whole and it is not school-sponsored, McLaughlin said. He used tennis and swimming as examples.

Heefner said she wants all athletic booster clubs to step forward and absorb more of the costs associated with sports.

Board member Firmadge Crutchfield said he'd be concerned about cutting a sport in which teenagers stand to lose scholarships. He said "numerous areas" continue to exist in the budget where cuts can be made without academic repercussions.

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