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Elmhurst District 205 board discusses lacrosse fees

Amy Engstrom-Clugg comments on equity issues about lacrosse at the Dec. 12 Elmhurst Community Unit School District 205 Board of Education meeting.
Amy Engstrom-Clugg comments on equity issues about lacrosse at the Dec. 12 Elmhurst Community Unit School District 205 Board of Education meeting.

ELMHURST – Elmhurst Community Unit School District 205 may cover some of the costs for lacrosse following a vote planned for January's Board of Education meeting.

A few people addressed the school board about the funding issue at its Dec. 12 meeting.

Mike Grant, a member of the Elmhurst Lacrosse youth program board, was among them. He said about 400 boys and girls participate each spring in lacrosse, which is a sport sanctioned by the Illinois High School Association. Elmhurst Lacrosse is a nonprofit organization run by parent volunteers for second- through eighth-graders.

He said he wanted funding for lacrosse at the high-school level to be a fee-based program funded by the school district.

"In order for as many kids to participate as possible, it needs to be affordable to as many kids as possible," Grant said.

Lacrosse is currently a self-funded sport at York Community High School, according to a newsletter posted Dec. 9, 2016, on the school's website. From its founding in 2006 until the district recognized it as a self-funded school sport for the 2010-11 academic year, it was a parent-run organization. In 2016, the player fee was $475. Families have raised money through various fundraisers, including concessions, car washes and restaurant fundraisers.

Amy Engstrom-Clugg asked that lacrosse be given the same consideration as other sports.

"Honestly, lacrosse is no more deserving than any other sport. But, at the same time, it's no less deserving," she said.

Parent Bob Duwa said lacrosse is an expensive sport with equipment costs, and paying for the program becomes cost-prohibitive for some families.

"Let's level the playing field," Duwa said.

The proposed fee would be $175 for each student in the program, according to a cost estimates document that Mark Cohen, assistant superintendent of innovation and growth for the district, sent to board members. Coaching stipends – $60,000 for 10 coaches – are comparable to baseball, a like-sized program, Cohen said.

He said there are four different levels of fees for athletics per participant: $125, $150, $175 and $200. The $200-fee sports cost more than $1,000 per individual participant, he said.

Board member Chris Blum attributes growth in lacrosse to parents not wanting to have their children play football because of the potential for injuries, and he said the support for lacrosse is "fantastic." However, he noted, fees for the other sports already were approved last spring, and a change in fees for the other sports would require communicating the change with parents.

"We should review how we fund our sports next year, and lacrosse should be part of that pool," Blum said.

He added the cost to the district would be adding to the deficit in the district budget.

Board Vice President Margaret Harrell said the challenge is finding the money to support the various programs the district offers and making the financial choices. She said she believes there should be a reassessment of all sports fees next year.

Harrell said the board could make an exception this year for lacrosse, but it would set a precedent.

Board member Jim Collins said lacrosse parents approached the board in 2012 to ask that it recognize lacrosse so that York Community High School could play in post-season tournaments and the parents would self-fund participation. He anticipated future parents would ask that the sport be funded like any other sport.

"There is something to the equity and fairness aspect to this. It's not like we didn't know this was coming. And here it is," Collins said. "So I think we should fund it. We should make an exception. We should fund it this spring."

He added he was in support of a complete review of fees as well.

Board President Shannon Ebner said they should have included lacrosse in a fee review last February.

"Let's take care of it now," she said.

The board's next meeting is Jan. 9.

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