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#2 Parents save middle school sports

Some booster club parents presented a plan this year aimed at saving middle school sports. The plan’s saving grace, they said, was a pay-to-play game plan.

“My hope is that we will be able to continue with middle school sports,” Lisa McCarley, chairperson of the Fort Mill Middle School District Athletic Board, said.

At issue is funding. The Fort Mill School Board last March took action on several recommended cuts to make allowances for anticipated shortfalls for the 2010-2011 school district budget. Under that recommendation, middle school sports and several other programs and positions were cut. Leaders contended that cutting middle school sports would help the district save more than $190,000.But what of the children who play middle school sports? What of the leadership, team building and problem solving skills they acquire from participating in middle school sports, and what of the ability to grow high school teams from groomed middle school athletes?

Those were questions booster club parents could not afford to ignore, nor could they let middle school sports get the ax because of lack of funding.

“Bailing out is not an option,” McCarley said. “We owe it to our kids.”

Enter pay to play.

District leaders said that the student athlete participation fee, $100 per student per sport, is projected to bring in an estimated $75,000. The booster club parents would need to raise $32,000. Their plan included using some booster club reserves and a combination of fundraising efforts.

In June, the group made its initial $15,000 payment to the Fort Mill School District.

“We’re half way there,” McCarley said. “The community and parents are pulling together to make this a reality for our athlete students.”

The payment did not go without notice.

“We’re pleased that this self-funding option is moving forward,” Leanne Lordo, assistant superintendent for finance and operations, said.School board members were made aware of the payment via an email.

“We have received $15,000 of the fundraising proceeds needed to support middle school athletics next school year,” Lordo wrote in the email. “Each middle school athletic booster club has remitted their $5,000 payment due August first. We’re off to a positive start.”

Their final payment also is in the bag, McCarley said.

“We will be making our January payment to the [Fort Mill] school district at the next school board meeting,” McCarley said.

That final payment is due Jan. 31, 2011.The booster parents plan to present that payment at the school board’s Jan. 4 meeting. Doing so makes good on a promise, McCarley said.

“The middle school will be having spring sports for the 2010-2011 school year,” she said.

Now, booster parents are working on next school year’s fundraising efforts, McCarley said.

“It’s important for the community to continue pulling together its time and financial resources to keep our student athletes playing sports at the middle school level,” she said.