SCSD1 board votes to tighten athletic combination agreements

BONDURANT – Sublette County School District No. 1 (SCSD1) is the only organization in southwest Wyoming offering alpine skiing as a sport to students living inside and outside Sublette County.

Interest in the alpine skiing is “growing exponentially,” Activities Director and Assistant Pinedale High School Principal Jake Rich told trustees at the Oct. 13 meeting in Bondurant.

SCSD1 received requests from students in Farson, Cokeville, Kemmerer, Mountain View, Star Valley and Big Piney to compete with the Wranglers on the slopes this year through athletic combination agreements between districts.

The heightened demand in alpine skiing posed financial and logistical challenges for the district, Rich said, and he asked the trustees for guidance in drafting future combination agreements.

Alpine skiing is not the only sport with combination agreements, Rich added. The list includes girls’ and boys’ swimming, golf, Nordic skiing, soccer and cross-country.

The board discussed the matter and unanimously approved a motion permitting the activities director to determine the schedule of fees and the terms for future combination agreements.

The cost to maintain each sport varies by activity, according to financial information provided by Rich. Soccer is the least expensive, with an estimated expenditure per student of $114. Alpine skiing, on the other hand, puts the district back approximately $950 per student.

Superintendent Shannon Harris told the board 11 students from other districts showed an interest in competing on the alpine ski team, adding around $11,000 to the district’s cost of operating the sport.

Alpine skiing events take place at ski areas located a certain distance from towns, prompting the district to pay for additional overnight stays, Rich explained. Alpine skiing also requires the payment of lift tickets for each athlete at various resorts, he explained, adding to the cost.

Combination agreements with other districts force athletes to participate from a distance, raising concern over the ability for coaches to build relationships with the athletes, monitor an athlete’s practice routines and their ability to compete at events.

Rich said his goal was not to “take opportunities away” from students, but allow the district to recoup some of the costs and help coaches with supervision issues. He also wanted to be consistent in offering opportunities to young people across different sports.

Rich proposed adding conditions to combination agreements, like requiring out-of-county athletes to participate in-person for two practices a week to get to know the coaches and other team members. Rich also suggested outside school districts provide a certified coach to track their athletes’ progress and readiness to compete.

Rich and the trustees emphasized making exceptions for Sublette County School District No. 9 (SCSD9) to preserve what Rich described as a “healthy” friendship between the districts that is “good for the county.”

Trustee Marie McGuire agreed with Rich’s proposals, raising the concern about the liability incurred by allowing students from outside Sublette County to travel and compete under SCSD1’s supervision.

Vice chair Chris Nelson suggested using recreation fund mill levies to subsidize part of the costs for out-of-district students to participate, particularly those from SCSD9. Organized sports provide opportunities for young people and increase the chances for success later in life, he added.

Trustee Charles Prior said the recreation fund is meant to assist Sublette County residents, including students at SCSD9. He believed students residing outside the county must pay their own way and “put some skin in the game.”

“It’s unfair to use Sublette County money outside Sublette County and it’s not fair to our constituents,” Prior said.

Additional SCSD1 news

• Trustees voted unanimously to hire an additional assistant wrestling coach.

The Wyoming High School Activities Association board approved girls’ wrestling as a sanctioned high school sport in April 2022. Eleven girls at Pinedale High School expressed “strong interest” in going out for wrestling this winter, Rich told trustees, prompting the need to expand the coaching staff.

• The board also passed a motion to hire an additional girls’ basketball coach for the middle school to meet growing demand in the sport.

• Trustees voted to approve a request by the Pinedale High School music department to organize a trip for students to Florida during the 2024 spring break.

• The board also passed a motion approving proposed bus route descriptions for the 2022-2023 school year.

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