The informal vote was nearly unanimous - parents and students want Plan B.
Now it's up to the community to raise the funds needed by April 2 to attempt to save nearly all of Brainerd High School's existing sports and activities for next year.
During Tuesday's athletics and activities listening session, participants were asked to participate in breakout sessions and not only provide feedback for school board members, but they voted on whether they supported Plan A or Plan B for athletics/activities reductions.
There were 240 votes for Plan B and only two votes for Plan A. Thirteen people said they were undecided, or they abstained or opted for neither plan, according to district officials Wednesday.
Jerry Walseth (center), Brainerd School District superintendent, spoke about proposed cuts during a listening session Tuesday night at Brainerd High School. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls » Purchase reprints of this photo.
The greatest difference between the two funding models is that Plan A includes eliminating all but 12 of the 29 high school league sports while Plan B retains all 29 sports but relies heavily on Warrior Way Inc., a recently formed nonprofit corporation created to provide participation fee assistance for students. The School Board Curriculum Committee will consider both plans at its 11:30 a.m. April 2 meeting. Board members were e-mailed copies Wednesday of all comments made during the breakout sessions.
In order for Plan B to be considered, district officials asked Warrior Way Inc. supporters for a two-year financial commitment, which is about $220,000, to be in the bank by April 2. Jim Kramer, a Warrior Way Inc. member, told parents and students at the meeting that supporters have raised about $100,000 so far and have a considerable amount of pledges above that amount. The district has to trim $860,000 from athletics and activities as part of the $5.5 million in budget reductions for next fall.
Superintendent Jerry Walseth said Wednesday that these are the only two options. There isn't an option where people could raise funds for a specific sport or activity.
"Administration had to make recommendations for reductions and we've done that," said Walseth. "Warrior Way is all or nothing. The board didn't ask us to make recommendations for half of the cuts so we're making our recommendations and we'll see what happens on April 2. We offered two plans and we were asked to meet the financial (reductions), we've done that. Warrior Way approached the board. Those are the options."
He said it was a difficult decision for the administrative team to make, deciding which sports and activities would remain next fall, but having the second option of community funding through Warrior Way Inc. made a significant difference. In comparison, Walseth said the most difficult aspect of all these $5.5 million in budget reductions is the loss of more than 60 teachers.
Brainerd senior defenseman Luke Swanson (4) and senior forward Joe Frazer led the celebration after the Warriors scored a goal Feb. 20 in their Section 8-4A quarterfinal game against Monticello-Annandale/Maple Lake. Brainerd Dispatch/Clint Wood » Purchase reprints of this photo.
"The toughest part of all of this is reducing teachers which then impacts students negatively in the classroom," Walseth said. "Those are the toughest because my belief is that from the standpoint of education preparation those have the long-lasting effects. This is a tough decision from the standpoint that we understand the impact of sports and activities. They are a great predictor of success. We understand that."
Walseth said he and other administrators are supportive of Warrior Way Inc.'s efforts and hope supporters are able to raise enough funds by April 2.
"I most certainly, on behalf of students and on behalf of the community, hope they can achieve that," said Walseth. "I most certainly do. And more importantly down the road I hope that we can achieve what we need to have happen in the classroom from the standpoint of (smaller) class sizes. I can't send my best wishes for one without hoping for the other."
The 12 sports recommended in Plan A to be retained next fall include: Adapted floor hockey, baseball, boys' basketball, girls' basketball, dance, football, softball, boys' swimming, girls' swimming, boys' track, girls' track and volleyball. Minnesota State High School League activities proposed under Plan A to remain next fall include: Band, choir, orchestra, one-act play and speech.
JODIE TWEED may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5858.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.