by Sarah Schwartz & Olivia Whitaker, Sports Editor & Sports Reporter
graphic by AJ Nguyen
The wide array of extracurricular activities that South offers is, for many students, essential for a positive high school experience. Sports teams, in particular, provide the unique opportunity for students to find a community of peers with like-interests outside of the classroom.
Following the failed operational override on March 14, Newton Public Schools (NPS) was forced to quickly find a way to reduce costs. To do so, budget cuts were made across the system, with staffing reduced in the elementary, middle and high schools, and substantial reductions in South’s athletic department.
In an email on June 21, Principal Tamara Stras announced that these reductions involved the termination of coaches, limited transportation and the elimination of certain teams altogether.
The winter dance team, frequently seen at basketball games, was one of the teams cut.
Raina Bornstein, a senior formerly on the winter dance team, said the team offered a safe space for dancers, away from the stresses of dance outside of school and their everyday lives.
“Dance team is nice because it is a smaller commitment and also because the girls view it as an opportunity to collaborate and spend time with other dancers in a less stress inducing way,” she said.
She said that the team’s environment created a uniquely positive experience that has left a lasting impact on her.
“I also received a lot of one-on-one mentorship from the coach about life and about dance. I really valued that and it’s helped shape me a lot,” Bornstein said.
Last year, South’s male gymnasts competed in a combined North-South team, while the girls had their own gymnastics team. Next year, the boy’s program has been cut, which will result in a co-ed South gymnastics team.
Junior Lawson Welch, last year’s girls gymnastics manager, said that the team’s funding before the override failed was already lacking financial support from NPS as team members had to raise money to purchase necessary equipment.
“Most of the funding for our program comes from individual fundraisers that we do and the season fees that athletes pay at the beginning of the season. Really the only thing that gets paid for by the school that I’m aware of is the busing to and from away meets,” Welch said.
Bornstein was surprised that the winter dance team was cut since the team did not require much funding from the school.
“I understand that they need to make cuts in order to fit within the school budget, and I understand why they would target athletics as opposed to academic pursuits, but given that the dance team really does not require much money, how much money could we possibly require from the school?” she said.
Both North and South were instructed to reduce their athletic department budgets by $100,000. Stras said that the school’s decisions of where to allocate cuts were made with the main priority of limiting the repercussions on students.
“We went through every sport that we had and looked at the number of kids who were playing and then looked at the number of assistant coaches that we had,” she said.
“Let’s take football for example. One of the assistant coaches was cut because football has three or four assistant coaches, and three or four assistant coaches can handle the number of kids who come through football.We had some sports that very few students engaged in that were actually really expensive.”
NPS Assistant Superintendent and Chief Financial Officer Liam Hurley said that many different programs such as the music and drama departments as well as staff in English Language Learning and special learning services in Newton were affected by budget cuts, not just athletic teams.
“We were basically calling it across the board budget reductions,” he said.“We were looking at all program areas from elementary, middle and high schools in different areas to almost take a proportionate share of reductions.”
Stras said transportation was an area of the athletic department budget that was significantly impacted. Most junior varsity teams will not get buses if they are traveling separately from the varsity team.
“We’ve definitely minimized the use of buses,” she said. “That will have an impact, because parents are going to have to start driving kids or kids are going to have to start driving themselves.”
The gymnastics team is familiar with this issue, as the team does not receive busing to practices at North, leaving gymnasts to find their own modes of transportation.
In the past, seniors drove fellow members of the team to practice, but without any confirmed seniors for this upcoming year, Amelie Hirst, junior and incoming captain, said the team still isn’t sure how they will make the short commute.
“We’re either going to be hoping that our coach who lives half an hour away would be able to pick us all up,” she said. “Or we may be taking a NewMo, but there are a lot of girls so that’s not really going to work.”
Yael Feld, a sophomore on the fall dance team, said that the budget cuts could lead athletes to new activities.
“I definitely think that it will impact other people and they’ll be forced to not do that sport anymore or do a different sport,” Feld said.
Although there is discussion around whether or not the reductions are permanent solutions, Hurley said there is a chance eliminated programs could be reinstated in the future.
“Over the next six to eight months, we’re going to go through a whole other budget process,” he said. “We do it every year. We’ll assess the summary and look at positions and programs that we’ve made reductions in, and, certainly, if we can restore something, we would.”
Hirst said the budget cuts are disappointing because they restrict the abundance of extracurricular activities that make students’ high school experience so special.
“It’s just sad that it’s limiting people’s opportunities to experience and try out different things that they normally would during high school since it’s such a fun time to meet new people and find new things to do,” Hirst said.
To provide students with the utmost resources and opportunities, Stras said schools must receive strong and necessary support — in the case of the athletic department reductions, this support manifests in the form of funding.
“The schools need to be funded appropriately,” she said. “Not funding the schools appropriately does not only affect academics. It affects athletics. It affects everything.”