More money in the budget could save the Fort Lupton High School football program and other sports in the Weld RE-8 School District.
At mid-afternoon May 17, Superintendent Alan Kaylor said there would be an extra $1.9 million in state funding and from oil and gas royalties in the 2022-23 budget. Later in the evening, he presented the update to the Weld RE-8 Board of Education in a closed-door setting.
“That could go to a lot of things — increased teacher salaries,” Kaylor said in the afternoon.
RE-8 board President Susan Browne said because of the extra funding, the board is not currently looking at any budget cuts, including the football program.
“Money is going to be very tight, though,” Browne said. “With the cost of inflation at a 7% increase, the cost of utilities, as we all are seeing those gas prices increasing, the aging of our buildings and the need to replace and repair mechanical parts such as boilers and roof top units, there is no extra money laying around. In the future, we may need to look for a bond or mil levy to help offset the costs.”
Fellow board member Cody LeBlanc said it was too early to tell where the extra funds could go, considering the board adopted a budget last year that was $3 million in the hole.
“The Fort Lupton Education Association and the district’s negotiating team are still negotiating the trust agreement for next year,” he said. “Without resolution from negotiations, it is premature to discuss what the additional funding could be used for.”
LeBlanc also cited the nation’s high inflation rate and potential impacts on the district. He also pointed to a discussion earlier this spring about building and facilities needs within RE-8.
“As stated during the meeting, there are nearly $15 million of repairs and renovations that will need to be completed,” LeBlanc said. “While families struggle after the pandemic and President Biden’s inflation rates are soaring, is it fair to ask the local taxpayers to pass a bond to cover theses costs?”
Browne said middle- and high-school athletic programs came up two years ago as a means to cut the budget
“It (the football team) has a long history of unsuccessful seasons,” Browne said. “Many years, we have few players that cause our players to play many positions with no breaks, and the risks of injury are high. We have a high coach turnover. We again have another opening for a head coach.
“Football is an option, as are other sports and other items in the budget, when trying to figure out how to make the budget work and retain teachers and stay competitive with salaries with surrounding school districts,” he added.
If the school board axes the football program, Title IX requirements won’t come into play.
Title IX is a federal law that protects people from discrimination based on sex in educational programs and activities that take federal or financial assistance. It applies to sports programs, too. The district has to provide reasonable opportunities for members of each sex in substantial proportion to the number of students in each sex participating in interscholastic sports.
Fort Lupton High School fields two athletic teams for boys, three for girls, three separate programs for both genders and two coed teams. But the potential removal of one sport does not necessarily equate to removal of another.
Kaylor said Title IX impacts have more to do with participation numbers.
“Adding girls tennis helped us with Title IX,” Kaylor said. “We’re OK, sport to sport, with participation numbers. For football, we range from 50 to 60 kids to about 30 or 40. We’ve had to cancel a few freshman games because those schools’ numbers don’t support a varsity level program.”
Meanwhile, comments continued about the possible end to Fort Lupton’s football program. The Weld RE-8 school board asked for information about the costs and participants for all sports at the high school. Kaylor plans to present a sports budget for all schools in the district, participation numbers and revenue streams during the May 26 school board meeting.
On Facebook, Phil and Gina Gutierrez said it wouldn’t surprise them to see the district lose its accreditation, such as what happened to the Adams 14 School District earlier this month.
“Sports is a real life teaching experience for the participants,” said a Facebook post from Phil and Gina Gutierrez. “Sports builds the mind and the body for the participants. It brings the community together. If sports are cut, it's time to look at replacing the people making that decision .... bad enough our children aren't getting the education from the Fort Lupton school system they deserve.”
Parent Angelina Alarcon advocated for a change in the Bluedevils’ athletic classification. It’s done every two years and is based on a school’s enrollment.
“Maybe we’re in the wrong division. (Class) 3A is stacked. The schools recruit people,” she said. “We spend money on Homyak, but only one person came from Homyak to a Fort Lupton school.”
Some online comments asked the district to leave the sports programs alone and look somewhere else. The music program costs $88,000 per year, as an example.
“The cost of music includes the salary and benefits for a certified teacher, whereas athletic programs are extra duty pay for coaches,” said Jessica Holbrook, the district’s finance and business services director.
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