The Philadelphia School District’s $629 million budget gap strikes again.
News of how the cuts will affect students is slowly trickling out as the school year gears up, and this time, middle schools have taken a hit. The middle school athletic budget was cut from $1.4 million to $400,000, officials said.
“We are trying to restructure and realign to be as efficient as we can,” said Dennis Creedon, the district’s deputy chief of academic enrichment and support. “We also want to make sure that children do not lose opportunities.”
The fiscal realities have forced officials to get creative, but they say no sports will disappear.
Most middle school sports had been inter-scholastic — middle schools fielding teams that play against other schools’ teams.
Now, there will be just three inter-scholastic middle school sports — football for boys; field hockey and lacrosse for girls, said Robert Kolman, the district’s executive director of athletics.
The rest of the teams will become intramurals, with multiple school squads squaring off against each other.
Kolman said the shift happened because of the budget crunch, but will end up meaning more students can play.
“We will create more opportunities for students to play sports and create a better skill base,” he said.
The savings comes from not having to pay coaches. Teachers will still supervise the sports, but they will be paid through extra curricular, or EC hours, allotted through a middle school sports budget.
Tight finances will also mean less money for high school sports, and some restructing there. Bowling, badminton and indoor track, formerly interscholastic high school sports, will become intramurals.
High school swimming will be modified, with some intramural opportunities and some interscholastic opportunities based on individual swimmers’ times. And top high school bowlers will also be able to compete through an interscholastic league, Kolman said.
“The scholarship exposure will still be available,” he said.