- COMMUNITY LINKS
A unanimous decision to table discussions about the possible elimination of the St Marys Area High School gymnastics program was approved during the Monday evening meeting of the school district's Board of Directors meeting.
Several gymnasts, parents and Irene McCandless, team coach, were in attendance at the meeting to discuss the issue; however, with the July board meeting cancelled, all those involved may have to wait for any decision or discussion until the board's August meeting.
"One of my main concerns for this program is some of the girls, this is the only sport they do and if we were to eliminate this program, they would forfeit the possibility of having a varsity letter or a varsity jacket or even any school recognition as an athlete," McCandless said. "I really wouldn't want to see that taken away from any child."
McCandless said she e-mailed a letter to school board members, which several said they did not receive; however, President Joe Goetz assured her the correspondence would be relayed to them.
Twelve additional e-mails were received from gymnasts in Altoona, State College and Moon Township, as well as from a PIAA gymnastics official and parents, all voicing their support of the program.
"I know there needs to be cuts for cost savings, I know because we are in the same position at work and we are doing everything we can to save everybody's positions, but regarding the program, we've come up with a list of items that we think would be able to help with the expenditure part to help keep the program intact," McCandless said. "I personally am willing to take a pay freeze for as long as this program is in existence. It's not about the money; I am here for the kids. I'm willing to go without an assistant coach position."
While addressing members of the school board, McCandless presented several ideas on how to cut costs within the program.
"With those recommendations and not tallying in the two items that I wasn't certain of what the cost came in at, of not utilizing a bus and my pay freeze, there is a savings of roughly $2,975. If we add in the bus and pay freeze I'm sure it would be well over $3,000 or more," McCandless said.
"The board was not selecting one particular sport over another, but looking at all costs, so it wasn't selected as a vendetta of any sort," Goetz said. "All the sports are being scrutinized, along with all the expenditures that go into our budget."
Among the budget constraints faced by the district are decreases in state and federal funding, lack of students as the district population keeps shrinking and restraints and taxation on the community.
"Next year, the funding of that budget shows a large deficit and a real question is where that differential will be made from. A lot of those areas are very sensitive areas and have to be addressed and sports will be one of those," Goetz said. "Other activities will be looked at, some consolidations need to be looked at, whether this will be enacted next year or several years, as we continue to keep shrinking and as population keeps dropping and costs keep increasing, funding from the state and federal keeps decreasing."