Members of the Board of Trustees of the Elk Grove Unified School District have been deluged the past few days with emails asking for the restoration of funding for freshman sports.
During a time of budget shortfalls, the school district eliminated all freshman teams prior to the 2010-2011 school year. It saved the district about $400,000 at the time. The money for other sports programs also took a hit of about $500,000.
Initially, the district wanted to eliminate swimming and diving, boys and girls golf and a few junior varsity sports. After a public outcry the Board told district officials to cut the money to all sports equally.
Now, with budget times looking much better the call for restoration of freshman-only teams is sounding louder and louder, particularly with Board members eyeballing the budgets for the coming school year.
“We are looking forward to our son becoming a teammate with the Franklin Wildcats,” Sergio Orozco wrote in an email sent to the Citizen. “We have recently been notified that this may not happen as the E.G.U.S.D. will not allow the Frosh-Soph football team to be split into two groups; and as a result several of our children will not have the opportunity to play the desired sport of choice. ”
“If this is not allowed then my son who has been eager to start his freshman year on the Wildcats football team will soon not have his desire to attend school and the drive to keep up his grades to be an active participant on the team,” Orozco continued.
Valerie and Greg Manuel, grandparents of a boy who will be attending Franklin High School next year, had similar concerns: “(There is a) need for more opportunities for incoming 8th graders to participate and become engaged in/adapt to the high school culture/environment in a positive way,” they wrote in their email. “ (Freshman sports provides) motivation for our youth to stay in school, do well, complete school and pursue college.”
The school district’s athletic director Jim Smrekar, also a recipient of many of these same emails, agrees.
“We want to provide as many opportunities for kids to participate,” he said. “By restoring freshman programs that would provide kids more opportunities.”
“What athletics does for kids is great,” he continued. “not only physically, but socially, academically. Studies have been done that show they have higher GPA’s, their behavior is better. I’m a huge proponent of bringing (freshman sports) back.”
However, Smrekar says that before freshman sports will be restored, cutbacks elsewhere need to be replaced.
“We’ve been running very lean for several years,” Smrekar said. “Our number one priority is to restore the funding for the existing programs, the number two priority is the restoration of freshman sports.”
The timing of all of this will be up to the school board.
“Obviously when you’ve made the significant cuts we have the last several years, there’s a long list of restorations that needs to be done,” Smrekar said.
Additionally, Smrekar says that if directed to put money into freshman-only teams, the funding would be available for all nine EGUSD high schools.
“At the time we made the decision to eliminate freshman sports, we decided we would eliminate them district-wide,” he added. “When we restore them, we will restore them district-wide.”
Monterey Trail, Franklin, Elk Grove, Sheldon and Pleasant Grove will all be a part of the Delta League this fall along with Davis and Jesuit/St. Francis. Those three schools have freshman teams.
Cosumnes Oaks will enter the Capital Athletic Conference, a group of schools that also have freshman teams.
Laguna Creek, Valley and Florin will be in the Metro Conference in the fall, but none of the current members field freshman squads in any sport.
But, in looking back to 2009-2010, the last school year that EGUSD had freshman teams, participation was pretty limited.
“At the time the only sport all nine schools had freshman teams was boys’ basketball,” Smrekar said. “We were down to four baseball teams, zero softball teams and maybe five girls basketball teams and six or seven football teams.”