Extracurricular activities top concern among students at budget forum
For many Moffat County High School students gathered in the school library Thursday afternoon, the day doesn’t end when the last bell rings.
From speech and debate to swimming, student council to band, many factions of MCHS extracurricular activities were represented during the after-school meeting.
About 40 students attended to voice their concerns and ask questions about potential upcoming cuts to the school district’s budget. The cuts could amount to nearly $2 million of the $20 million budget.
The MCHS Student Council organized the question-and-answer session with Superintendent Joe Petrone and District Finance Director Mark Rydberg to begin a dialogue between students and administrators.
Petrone said the level of involvement and concern that came from the students did not surprise him.
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“I’m so familiar with student involvement, I would have been surprised if they hadn’t become involved,” he said. “I just don’t know how we could leave them out of this. They have good questions, are very thoughtful and their thoughts are based on information they’ve collected.”
Most of the concerns regarding the potential cuts pertained to extracurricular activities and athletics.
The first draft proposal of 2010-11 cuts, released in February, indicates a possible 10 to 30 percent reduction in extracurricular and board-approved club expenses.
It also indicated that closing the MCHS pool could save $75,000 per year.
For Kevin Murray, a student lifeguard at the pool and swim team member, the pool provides an income as well as a possible future.
“For a lot of us, (extracurricular activities) are everything,” he said. “A lot of us are looking at scholarships and other opportunities outside of school. If that’s limited, then we’re limited.”
While Petrone admitted there were no succinct answers to the questions of which activity or activities is going to be cut and by how much, he could reassure the students as to the process.
“Our first order of business is to preserve a quality education,” he said. “Not to eliminate. We can only propose what is reasonable and sound.”
He said from now until the budget is finalized in June, an activities committee will convene to discuss the options for the 10 to 30 percent cuts in extracurricular activities.
They will incorporate input from students, parents, faculty and community members when considering the best possible proposals.
Still, Petrone knows not everyone will be pleased with the end result.
“If I could tell you everyone in the community would be happy with this, I wouldn’t be being honest with you,” he said. “But you have your input, and you’re doing it right now by asking the tough questions.”
Student Council secretary Velvet Warne said she and her fellow officers were impressed with the turnout and the depth of questions.
She said she expects more students to come to the Student Council with input and ideas that they can in turn bring to the board.
“I think now that they know they can talk, they will come to us with more questions,” Warne said. “And I think we’ll definitely have more of these meetings.”
Several students also were reassured during the meeting that some things were not on the chopping block.
There were many questions pertaining to the potential cutting of art and music classes, or the reduction in teaching positions.
Petrone and Rydberg reassured the students that there were no proposed items that eliminated any teacher jobs, art or music classes.
But with the possibility of another 10 percent reduction next year, there aren’t many activities that will go unaffected.
“Our responsibility is to look at everything,” Petrone said. “There is nothing we are proposing that doesn’t impact some of you in some way.
“We just have no choice.”
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Editor’s note: This story was updated at 6:45 p.m. to include a response from the Bureau of Land Management’s national office.