Temporary solution leaves freshman sports program up to individual schools

FREDERICK, Md. – When Jessica Hillian first heard freshman sports was going to be cut, she thought about her eighth-grade daughter and others who had been looking forward to playing on a team this year.

“It could allow for some students at the most challenging point of their high school career to miss out on the opportunity and drop out of athletics completely,” said Hillian. “Then they would miss that value of sportsmanship, and teamwork that they would have normally.”

The Board of Education made the decision to cut the program in the midst of a budget crisis. Frederick County Public Schools spokesperson Michael Doerrer said this was the most difficult budget year the school system has ever faced.

“There have been cuts across the board and all of them have been painful,” said Doerrer. “The freshman sports line item in our budget was about $60,000, and honestly, this year the Board had to find every single penny they could.”

However, after seeing the outpouring of support in a petition with more than 2,000 signatures and understanding the important role sports play in a child’s development, FCPS announced on Thursday that it would be up to the schools to continue the program and those participating would have to pay an additional fee.

“If schools choose to field three teams – a freshman team, a JV team, and a varsity team – all freshmen who play at the school will have to pay an additional $125 dollar fee on top of the 90 dollar athletic fee,” said Doerrer.

Football and boys and girls basketball are the only sports currently offering freshman teams.

Doerrer also added that this is an interim solution as they look for more long term options.

And while several schools have already decided not to continue their program, Hillian said she’s glad they presented a temporary solution.

“The fact that there is an option there is all we were asking for,” said Hillian.

Of the 10 schools, Urbana in an email said they would not offer freshman sports for the 2015-2016 school year.

Catoctin High School principal Bernard Quesada said they do not plan to have freshman sports but he will be meeting with coaches next week to discuss the matter. Tracey Franklin, principal at Walkersville said in an email that she along with the athletic director and head football coach will be discussing the decision next week.

The remaining schools are either still deciding or could not be reached for comment.

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