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District 200 B-Team reinstatement put on hold

WHEATON – In the face of a possible $1.3 million budget shortfall, the Community Unit School District 200 Board of Education decided during a meeting Wednesday against reinstating middle school B-team sports next year.

After ongoing public concern since the teams were cut in July 2010 and a formal discussion in December 2013, the conflicted board opted against spending the combined $160,000 to bring them back because the budgets of the district and its athletic departments are stretched thin.

"If I'm in charge of the district's athletic program, I want to be able to choose what I think is best for kids, given the resources that I have," said Board President Barbara Intihar. "For the board to direct me to say 'Find the money for this while you're doing all the other things that are important,' I think it limits me."

Superintendent Brian Harris said despite strong feedback from parents in favor of the reinstatement, district staff could not recommend returning the program.

He said in addition to a presentation the district's middle school principals gave the board in January, he talked with athletic department representatives and leadership at the high school and middle school levels.

The middle school principals advocated in favor of allocating funds toward class size reduction, technology, reading and math support, facility improvement, professional development and staff before reinstituting the program, he said.

Harris also said there were worries about raising participation fees for extracurriculars – which will be set at March's board meeting – and that the coaches of the high school girls volleyball and basketball teams did not believe they had been adversely effected by the lack of middle school B-teams.

Because of stagnating property tax levels and property values compared to surrounding communities, the district is tight on cash despite years of balanced budgets, said Board Vice President Jim Vroman.

There is still hope for the champions of B-teams, however. The board will reassess the district's entire co-curricular program at the middle and high school level as a strategic goal in the coming school year. Board member Jim Mathieson said he hoped the district could partner with the community to fundraise through foundation work, donations or other options.

Board member Rosemary Swanson said due to the lack of funding, it would be difficult to reinstate the teams now. But clearly, she said, it is an issue the community cares about and is therefore the board's responsibility to try to implement.

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