Swimming to join athletic offerings in 2012-2013

High school students in De Soto's USD 232 will have the opportunity to represent their schools in one more sport starting in 2012-2013 thanks to the Board of Education's decision to add swimming to the athletic line-up at its meeting Monday night.

The board voted 6-1 to add swimming teams next year after months of debate and research. When the issue first came before the board at the September meeting with wishes from patrons to add the sport this year, many board members worried the decision was being rushed.

Last night the board once again heard from several district patrons and from District Athletic Director Rollie Van Wyhe and discussed the new teams in a positive light.

"Staff has looked at our budget and we have the money for the teams this year and for the next couple of years and I think that's good enough," said board member Angela Handy. "If we have to start reviewing things to make budget cuts beyond that then fine, it can be reviewed just like everything else but I think we need to do this now."

District Superintendent Doug Sumner echoed Handy in his support of adding the teams.

"It's good for our students to have competitive interests and I feel good about adding swimming now. Does that mean we can promise swim teams will still be here for students in seventh grade right now? No, but the sad fact is we can't promise anything to seventh graders at this time," he said.

Estimated cost for the teams is $35,838 based on 24 students participating. The district will transport participating students to rented practice facilities at Olathe's Oregon Trail Middle School.

Board member Mitch Powers, who cast the only dissenting vote, voiced his concerns with spending "spare" money on athletics instead of academics.

"I'd like to say yes but I still have to wonder, if we have this extra money, nearly $40,000, is this really where we want to spend it or do we have other needs?" he asked.

The vote approves four swimming teams for the two high schools, a boys and girls team at each, providing the student interest can support individual teams. If initial registration is low, the teams can easily be combined for the two schools, according to Van Wyhe.

"It's hard to say this early whether or not we'll have enough kids to support four individual teams but we've heard a lot of interest from the students," he said. "For now we'll just have to get the word out that this opportunity will be available and see what happens."

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