Bowling teams to be added to district high schools for 2012 season, swimming failed

After a great deal of discussion and patron input, the De Soto USD 232 Board of Education approved the creation of a co-ed bowling team at both high schools in the district 4-3 at their meeting Monday evening. All swimming options at both schools failed.

An early motion that tied all teams together, combined swim teams for both boys and girls and individual bowling teams, failed 5-2. Further discussion of the matter began the process of breaking out each team for approval.

"We've been tying all these teams together in our discussion, both as far as time to get organized and funding go and I'm not sure that's fair," said board member Angela Handy. "There's still plenty of time between now and when the bowling and girls' swimming start to figure things out."

The bowling season begins in January and girls' swimming in February.

Board members Handy, Tammy Thomas and Dick Dearwester fully supported adding all teams and did not sway in their convictions. Board member Bill Fletcher supported adding bowling but not swimming at this time.

"We have an opportunity to give something to these kids and we can do this," said Thomas. "[These kids and parents] aren't here asking for a multi-million dollar project, they're asking for a coach, transportation, a location and an opportunity. Yes, we're here to provide for education but if we can give kids a way to participate, a reason to study because they have to to participate then I support this 100 percent. There's no good reason to say 'no'."

Board members Randy Johnson, Mitch Powers and Tim Blakenship remained firm in their belief that the board was moving too fast in consideration of the teams and hadn't fully explored what the cost would be to the district beyond this year.

"Yes, we know we have the money in the budget this year but we don't know beyond that, we don't know that we'll be able to continue to support these programs next year or the next," said Johnson. "I feel like we're being pushed into [spending money on] this when at the same time we're trying to save all the education dollars we can."

Powers echoed Johnson's sentiment and pointed to specific education areas that stood out to him as requiring additional funding before adding sports teams.

"While I greatly appreciate the interest of everyone in this room and understand the value of team sports, I've done some research and our technology department in struggling," he said. "If our conservative budget is already pulling from there and creating larger classrooms and cutting supplies then I don't want to see where we'd have to pull from to keep these teams going. I would love to say 'yes' tonight but as much as I hate to I can't."

Board member Fletcher, who cast the deciding vote that approved bowling but passed on swimming, asked that the discussion and research into what would be needed to create swimming teams be started earlier next year.

"We need to be sure a program like this is done right, even if that means waiting a year," he said. "There's a lot behind the scenes and we need to be sure we have qualified coaches, especially for diving, and know more about where these kids will be practicing, we can't rush into things."

The proposed cost of the approved bowling teams, as presented to the board at the September meeting when it was first discussed, is $10,910 per school, for a total of $21,820. This cost includes salaries for a head coach and assistant coach for each team, travel expenses, shirts and event entry fees. Practice lanes for the teams would be provided for free by Mission Bowl in Olathe.

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