The Round Valley School District governing board’s decision early this week to suspend funding for all extracurricular activities for the spring semester and the 2011-2012 school year was a shock to Eagar-Springerville residents and others in small-town Arizona.
As startling as that choice was, Payson High School Athletic Director Rob Varner believes there is a light at the end of the tunnel amidst the district’s financial woes.
Varner said he had discussed with Round Valley Athletic Director Guy Phelps the sudden suspension due to a $1.7 million funding deficit and the RVHS athletic director was confident the money to continue having sports and activities could be raised.
“I believe, they are going to try to do some things like we did,” said Varner.
The Payson district’s approach to the budget shortcomings for extracurricular activities was to charge athletes to participate and to remove coaches’ salaries from the district maintenance and operations budget. Salaries now are paid with the “pay to play” funds.
Payson’s extracurricular activities also receive huge financial boosts from several supporting organizations including the Friends And Neighbors (FAN) Club, Mogollon Sporting Association and the Payson Rodeo Committee.
Varner believes if RVHS can garner support from those types of organizations, the district could salvage programs.
The hammer fell dramatically on Round Valley’s extracurricular activities during a board meeting in which members opted to make drastic cuts that included suspension of all extracurricular activities for the upcoming spring semester and the 2010-211 school year.
Included in those cuts would have been the storied Elk football program that has been a staple of the school since the 1950s.
According to a story on the board meeting in The White Mountain Independent, during the highly emotional board meeting, several coaches, teachers and community members pleaded to have the board reconsider their decision to cut programs.
The story also says board member Gary Davis, a member of the Elk booster club, said he had faith money could be raised to continue extracurricular activities. Because the school district is in holiday recess, school officials were not available for comment.