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Paynesville Press - August 21, 2002

Junior high sports change as programs run by Community Ed.

By Andy Jones

Seventh and eighth grade sports will be run differently this year, since they will be operated by Community Education, instead of through general school operations.

Among the budget cuts in the Paynesville School District last year, the school board voted to eliminate seventh and eighth grade athletics from the general fund in 2002-03, saving the district $39,710. Of that cost, $24,000 would have gone to pay the coaches, $6,100 would have gone towards transportation and equipment costs, $4,300 would have gone to clerical costs, and $5,310 would have gone towards administrative costs.

Community Education agreed to pick up the seventh and eighth grade sports, hoping to lower costs and to make them self-sufficient based on fees. Community Education doesn't have the money from the general fund that was used to run the athletic programs in previous years so changes needed to be made to cut costs, said Matt Dickhausen, Community Education director.

To eliminate the main cost of seventh and eighth grade athletics, Community Education plans on using either varsity coaching or volunteer coaching.

Junior high cross country runners, for example, will continue to be grouped together with high school runners, and varsity staff will be responsible for more numbers. Gymnastics also already runs grades 7-12 together. The wrestling program will most likely be run this way as well this year.

In these sports, if athletes compete at any of the high school levels, whether junior varsity or varsity, they will have to pay the $75 fee for high school athletes. If the athlete competes at only in junior high competitions, they will pay only $40.

Other sports will use volunteer coaches to supervise separate teams. Football and volleyball will have separate seventh and eighth grade teams with volunteer coaches.

Since Community Education is using volunteer coaches, it may not work to have all practices right after school. Some sports may have to practice in the evenings, depending on the coach. "We don't have anything set in stone yet," explained Dickhausen.

Transportation for the Community Education athletic programs will be covered through the $40 fee that will be charged to all seventh and eighth grade athletes. According to athletic director Kyle Nehowig, the fall sports are the easiest to schedule because of the large number of players in football and volleyball. The bus will be quite full when traveling to away games in the fall for those sports, while the junior high cross country runners will ride with the varsity.

However, if numbers in a sport are low, Community Education could have a hard time funding transportation. There is a possibility for a reduced schedule in some sports. "We hope we never have to cancel them," said Dickhausen.

The programs will be run like other community education programs, if numbers are high and there is a sufficient amount of money to travel to away games, the schedules will stay relatively the same as in years past, but Community Education can't use money they don't have, said Dickhausen.

Community Education hasn't decided exactly how all the winter and spring sports will be run, as it will depend on the coach's wishes, the availability for volunteer coaches, and the number of participants.

One program that faces no change is hockey, since the River Lakes program only has grades 9-12 grade. The PNLS Hockey Association already runs its youth program with volunteer coaches and parent-provided transportation.

Cross Country
Practice started on Monday, Aug. 12, for the cross country team. More students can start practice any time before school begins. Cross country practices are held at 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, meeting on the high school track. Once school starts, practices will be from 3:20 to 5 p.m. after school each day.

Cross country is coached for grades 7-12 by Darrel Carstens, Rick Houske, and Todd Spanier. All of the athletes go to the same meets. Seventh and eighth grade cross country athletes will be affected by the $75 dollar fee if they compete at the varsity or junior varsity level. Otherwise, they will pay $40 if they compete only in the junior high races.

Once school starts, junior high football will run similarly to last year, with a few exceptions. The athletes will pay a $40 fee, mostly to cover busing for their three away games. They will also be playing five games at home.

Practices will be held Monday through Friday from 3:20 to 5 p.m. on the football practice field north of the high school parking lot. The first practice will be on Tuesday, Sept. 3, with volunteer coaches Brad Skoglund, Seth Elmhorst, and Tim Beier.

Volleyball will also run similarly to last year, with the exceptions of volunteer coaching and the $40 fee for transportation. The volleyball team will also have five home games and three away games.

Practices for volleyball will be held Monday through Thursday from 3:20 to 5 p.m. in the elementary school gym. Julie Jimenez and Jackie Spanier will be the volunteer coaches. Athletes should ride bus #43 or #46 to the elementary school for practice, which starts on Tuesday, Sept. 3.

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