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Conflicted D-200 school board considers reinstating B-teams, funding options

Published: Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014 1:52 p.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014 2:01 p.m. CDT

WHEATON – The Community Unit District 200 Board of Education is considering reinstating middle school B-team sports, after the program's removal in 2010 caused controversy among parents.

The topic was addressed at the board's Jan. 8 meeting, when principals of the district's four middle schools presented the results of an online survey distributed to parents.

Turnout was relatively low, as only 779 of the 3,300 surveyed responded. However, 91 percent of respondents supported adding B-teams and 79 percent supported increasing athletic fees to cover the cost, the principals said.

Most board members remained conflicted on the issue, particularly after the principals outlined potential costs. The original elimination saved $150,000.

To reinstate the teams would cost an estimated $163,746 in coaching stipends, transportation, uniforms and unspecified costs, the principals said. If funding B-teams was allocated to student athlete fee hikes, which many board members opposed, rates would increase from $125 to $238 for each student per sport.

The principals were to hesitant give a recommendation, despite citing B-team sports as a valuable experience for students.

Hubble Middle School Principal Beth Sullivan said 25 full-time middle school teaching positions were eliminated the same year B-teams were cut. In addition, she said, the schools have other fiscal priorities, such as lowering class sizes, integrating technology and improving facilities.

"Our difficulty with this one is looking at it, as I said, in isolation," she said. "There are so many other considerations that we would just implore to look at all of those."

Superintendent Brian Harris said he thought B-teams are something the district should work to bring back, while absorbing some of the costs, but acknowledged the other issues the principals outlined.

"I do believe that if I went to the middle school principals and said 'Hey, here's $160,000 today' ... we would have been talking about some other things on that list," he said.

In addition, the principals said, the availability of activity space to accomodate B-teams should be considered.

Although unsure of his own stance, board member Jim Mathieson said the respondents were clear.

"If I were to look at the mandate that the community has given us on these statistics and I look at $150,000 – I'm having a little trouble saying we're serving the community," he said. "And that mandate is there."

Board member Jim Vroman said because of the low rate of survey response, he was unsure about the clarity of the directive. In a time when major needs in the district abound, he said the board should avoid overspending, while also keeping athletic fees for students manageable.

He said he hoped the principals could offer split funding options for the district to look at before a potential vote Jan. 22, as the deadline for scheduling next year's athletic events is approaching.

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B-team options by the numbers

The District 200 middle school principals outlined three options to the board.

1. Status quo – No price change

2. Reinstate B-teams for previous sports with the program – Additional cost of $162,746 or a $238 fee per student athlete

3. Reinstate B-teams for previous sports with the program, create boys and girls soccer and boys volleyball programs – Could make finding a future sports conference easier, additional cost of $307,578 or a $292 fee per student athlete

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