College swimming programs aren’t the only scholastic groups on the chopping block these days.
At a hearing on Thursday night about the $6.7 million Albemarle County, Virginia Public Schools budget shortfall, school superintendent Pam Moran suggested cutting the districts swimming & diving program as the #2 item in an attempt to balance their budget.
Based on a presentation given to parents, it seems as though the superintendent has a priority to cut the swimming program as part of the budget closing, saying that they’ve tried everything they can that won’t hurt the students directly.
The district has 4 high schools that have produced a significant number of Division I collegiate swimmers. That includes most recently Penn State commit Hannah Harper and YMCA Nationals medalist Remedy Rule, who attends Western Albemarle High School and should be one of the top 50 recruits in the class of 2015.
Another of those Division I swimmers is American University senior Sean Cudahy, who gave us his thoughts on the cut.
I’m disappointed this discussion is even on the table. The swim teams at Albemarle and Western Albemarle High Schools are among the most successful athletic programs in Central Virginia.$29,000 saves .04 percent on the budget deficit but it’s hard to quantify how big swimming is in the Charlottesville community. Getting rid of high school swimming will be a major blow to that community.Personally, I’d like a little more transparency from Pam Moran on how she came up with this particular idea. There are many alternatives in play around the state, like in Fairfax County, where students pay a participation fee. I’m sure parents would be more than willing to pay some money to avoid having the team evaporate.I’m finishing my senior swimming season in college right now and it’s in large part thanks to the experience, the fun and the growth I had as a swimmer at Albemarle. The swimmers in Albemarle County deserve that opportunity.
According to the district’s official budget cutting plan, axing the swimming program would only save about $29,000 from the annual budget, which is less than one-half of one-percent of the budget shortfall. That’s because the district doesn’t imagine that cutting the swimming and diving programs will result in the loss of any full-time positions.
Meanwhile, parents interviewed by a local CBS station said that they’d be happy to chip in extra money in athletics fees to ensure that the schools don’t have to cut those programs.
The parents’ demands seemed to have been pretty unanimous – they don’t want class sizes to get bigger, and they don’t want programs cut, and they don’t want teachers laid off.
Other ideas proposed include cutting interpreter and translator services for a large Latino population in the area. The district also proposed increasing the average class size by .5 students, which would eliminate 21.87 full-time equivalent jobs and save the district an estimated $1.5 million. Both of those items are in “Tier 1,” as the district has laid out a three-part plan depending on how much they are actually forced to cut.
Tier 1 also includes a plan to increase athletic participation fees by $50,000 already built into it. Eliminating the swimming program is the only specific sport that is mentioned,and it is likely that the swim team is a substantially higher financial burden as compared to other programs, aside from the fact that pool rental fees are an easier cut than basketball gyms and soccer fields that are already constructed on school campuses.
There are reports that the school had an opportunity 5 years ago to receive free pool usage, but declined. We are awaiting more details on that story.
There are pools on the district’s campuses, including the Smith Aquatic & Fitness Center, but they are public facilities not reserved for school use specifically.
While the school’s presentation begins with an emphatic slide reading “Our deficit is not an expenditure problem. It’s a revenue problem,” the vast majority of the school’s proposed changes are spending cuts.
The area is served by club teams like the Virginia Gators, the Waynesboro YMCA, and the Shenandoah Marlins.
The University of Virginia is also located in Albemarle County.