School board votes to keep gymnastics program

Members of the St. Marys Area School District Board of Directors voted unanimously to continue the school's varsity gymnastics program for the 2011-12 school year during Monday evening's school board meeting.The board imposed two provisions in maintaining the program: The first is that the Central Pennsylvania Gymnastics League maintain their current membership and the second is that the St. Marys team maintain a minimum number of eight participants. Continuing the program will be considered on a year-to-year basis. Board members held an in-depth discussion during their workshop Thursday evening on the topic; the district had previously received 13 emails related to the possible elimination of the program. SMAHS Student Activities Director Terry Straub lead the discussion, recommending to eliminate the program. Further discussion by the board resulted in the above-mentioned provisions.On Monday evening, Straub presented a second option to the board-- the possibility of making gymnastics a club sport rather than a varsity sport.According to Straub, after consulting with a representative from the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA), he was informed that there is very little difference between a club and varsity sport, as both are considered teams.Straub explained that club sport teams are eligible to compete against varsity teams and if the club is associated with the school, it falls under the same PIAA guidelines, such as requiring athlete physicals, insurance under the school, and so on.One difference is that community or private clubs cannot compete against PIAA teams.The most obvious difference deals with funding. A club sport can have its booster organization involved in fundraising for all of its needs, whereas a varsity sport's funding is financed through the school district."The advantage (with a club sport) is being able to require different things of them, than with a varsity sport," Straub said.Board member John Healy questioned that if gymnastics would be a club sport, could the team still co-op, to which Straub replied yes.During Monday's board discussion, several members were in agreeance that if the team did not meet the two provisions, becoming a club sport would be their next viable option for keeping gymnastics in the school.