Sioux Falls School District’s proposed budget will cut gymnastics programs

Published: Apr. 6, 2023 at 1:18 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - The Sioux Falls School Board has the plans to cut the gymnastics programs in their hands.

The School Board held a work session Wednesday afternoon to discuss the Fiscal Year 2024 budget. Despite a 12% increase in the athletics budget from 2023, programs and stipends are slated to be cut.

Powerlifting is marked to be left out of the proposed general fund budget, but business manager Todd Vik said the program will continue to be supported by ESSER funds.

“They recommended level one of three. It will take powerlifting, which has has been fundraised in the past. It has never really been paid for with general funds. It was going to be. It got paid for with ESSER funds last year, and they decided we can still do it,” said Vik.

If a team qualifies for a state tournament, the proposed budget also plans to cut meal stipends for the athletes. Those funds will have to be raised by families and athletes.

“If they made the state tournament, we gave meal stipends. The district paid those for students. Those are going to be fundraised as well by the boosters,” said Vik.

The most impactful cut of all, however, would be the proposed elimination of the gymnastics programs. This cut “removes the opportunity for approximately 40 high school and middle school students to participate in gymnastics,” according to the proposed budget.

Many members of the high school gymnastics community have spoken out against the possibility of the sport being cut from Sioux Falls school.

School Board member Cynthia Mickelson questioned why athletics was getting such large cuts compared to other items.

“Everything else seemed to be level two or three, so why in athletics did it get recommended level one?” said Mickelson.

Vik stated that booster already raise funds for team meals, so it wouldn’t be hard to translate those fundraising efforts to meals for state tournaments. Powerlifting was already supported by ESSER funds, so Vik stated that there wasn’t much change.

The question of the gymnastics program, however, is one of efficiency.

“[Gymnastics] wasn’t, I don’t believe, so much of a budget cut...we’re just looking for efficiencies. It was that we’ve had ten plus years of kind of a steady decline. We have aging equipment that has to be replaced. I believe it was unanimous from the committee, which had over 30 people on it, to recommend level one,” said Vik.

Assistant Superintendent James Nold added that the other side of the issue comes from some sports seeing an increase of interest and needing to adjust funds properly. Nold said the committee was who unanimously provided the recommendation.

During the public input portion of the meeting, Lincoln High School gymnastics assistant coach Rebecca Mager said the gymnastics teams are prepared to offer solutions in order to preserve the sport in Sioux Falls schools.

On the issue of finding coaching staff, Mager said, “We do have an assistant and a head ready for each school if this gets to continue.”

As for equipment needed, particularly at Jefferson High School, Mager also outlined that Washington, Lincoln and Roosevelt High Schools are willing to donate equipment such as beams, a bar set and a vault table.

Even after donations would be made, Jefferson High School would still be in need of equipment such as a landing mats, a vault runway, a vault board and a floor. Mager said the floor could be built for a low cost.

Mager also proposed a financial plan of having each family donate $250 a year toward the gymnastics program. With 44 gymnasts, that could accumulate $11,000 a year. In local Sioux Falls club gymnastics, classes can cost anywhere from $135 to $302 per month.

Bobbie Tibbetts is the mother of 6th grader who is currently looking forward to competing at the high school level at Lincoln High School. Tibbetts asked the school board to give the gymnastics programs time to look for solutions to improve the number of participants.

“For her, if this isn’t an option, there’s really not a lot that she can fall back on, and I know that she’s not alone in that. If it’s not a budget decision and it’s truly a numbers decision and the declining numbers, allow us to implement solutions that can drive change,” said Tibbetts.

Tibbetts said there currently isn’t a culture of promoting high school gymnastics within local clubs, but said she and other parents could work to change that.

Another work session is set for Tuesday, April 11th. The tentative adoption of the budget is scheduled for the April 24th meeting.