School board ponders eliminating gymnastics program

Members of the St. Marys Area School District Board of School Directors, along with school principals, observed a moment of silence on Thursday evening during their regular workshop, in remembrance of students Allen Gursky and Stephen Glatt, who were killed in a fatal ATV accident on Wednesday evening. "We are extremely saddened by this tragedy and extend our sincere condolences to their families and friends," said Ann Kearney, superintendent. The main focus of the meeting was a discussion on efforts to increase revenue and decrease expenses. Among the various options were the possible elimination of the school's gymnastics program, increasing ticket prices for sporting events and charging a fee for the maintenance, upkeep and lighting costs when outside parties utilize Dutch Country Stadium.SMAHS Athletic Director Terry Straub recommended discontinuing the school's gymnastics program, stating the district could see a potential savings of $10,405. During the 2009-10 season, the district spent $1,300 per gymnast with a total of eight students on the team. Within the past several months, the district has eliminated an assistant coaching position from the team. He noted that a bulk of the cost is for transportation purposes. While Straub said the team is very competitive and does well, there are two private gymnastics programs in town the students could participate in. He added that there are only 24 school-sponsored gymnastics programs within Pennsylvania, compared to the 700 school-sponsored girls' basketball programs.In comparison, Straub said the SMA wrestling program is second highest in cost at a rate of $1,185 per participant during the 2009-10 school year. This cost will be further reduced due to the retirement of longtime coach Wayne Fordoski, bringing the cost down to $1,000 per participant. The final cost for each wrestler ends up at $970 due to the PIAA reimbursing the district for travel costs. The third highest sport, in comparison, costs $600 per student.Additionally, the district has seen an increase in student-athletes in such sports as basketball, tennis, volleyball, wrestling and cheerleading, which doubled its number of participants.