Cutting the two programs will save the school district about $15,000.
Despite complaints from parents and concerns from coaches, the Bluestem School Board voted unanimously to discontinue the cross country and golf programs at the school.
Cutting these programs will save the school district about $15,000. The board has also cut half of the business department and the family and consumer sciences department for a total savings of more than $100,000.
The problem at Bluestem comes from multiple sources. The student count has dropped from 800 to about 500 in the past 15 to 20 years.
But in the past six years, less money from the state has resulted in the district cutting nine teachers from 48 to 39 to make up for about $1.2 million less funding per year.
This year’s cuts are compounded by the fact the board had been spending reserve money on budget items to fill the gap in funding the past few years. Those funds can no longer be used and continue to have a positive cash flow.
“I understand that this is a local decision,” outgoing Superintendent Randy Rivers said. “But this is a discussion you also need to be having with Senator Forrest Knox and Representative Virgil Peck so they know how these funding decisions affect students.”
When parents asked why these two programs were chosen, Rivers said the number of students affected and quality of competition were used in the decision making process.
Athletic Director Brian Minks said there were only three students committed to cross country next year and only seven golfers currently and three of those are seniors.
Minks also expressed concerns for the school on Title IX female athletic program availability since there is a boys’ team in the spring but girls do not have their own team in the fall.
The students involved in golf or cross country might have an opportunity to participate at the club level or perhaps as a co-op participant if another local school has an opening and is willing to accept the athlete in its program.
Minks said El Dorado hadn’t been interested in co-op programs in the past but they have a new athletic director now, so that could have changed. The problem for Bluestem students is finding a program that was not full of non-co-op athletes from the host school.
Parents asked if the programs could be saved if money was raised and given to the schools as a gift.
Rivers said he believed the district could receive such a gift, but due to the level of competitiveness in the programs, he would recommend participating at the club level rather than trying to retain KSHSAA eligibility.
“We need to make sure people remember these nights when they go to the ballot box in September and November,” Rivers said.
School Board President Damian Korte said the decision was difficult for him because one of the two girls who participate in golf is his daughter.
“My gut feeling where I sit tonight is very different from where I sit when I go home and face her,” Korte said.
He asked if anyone had a motion on the issue.
Kenny Sowers said he would regretfully make the motion to kill the two programs. Brett Jurging, who was recently elected to the KSHSAA Board of Directors, seconded the motion that passed 5-0.
“This is not best for the kids, but it is the hand the state legislature handed us,” Rivers said.