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Glen Edwards trying to keep sports around

By: Carol Feineman, Editor
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In junior high school, I envied students receiving the Presidential fitness award during the end-of-the-year awards assembly. I thought students earning those patches were the crème de la crème and would grow up to be corporate executives and community leaders. Although I, as an adult, finally realized the value of sports, I wish I had been more athletic during my formative years. Fortunately for Glen Edwards Middle School students, they have plenty of chances every week to be involved in sports. Fall sports include co-ed flag football for seventh and eighth grades, girls volleyball for seventh and eighth grades, co-ed cross country for sixth to eighth grades, and boys and girls soccer for sixth through eighth grades. Winter sports at Glen Edwards School include boys and girls basketball for seventh and eighth grades, and co-ed seventh and eighth grade wrestling. Spring sports include girls softball for seventh and eighth grades; boys volleyball for seventh and eighth grades, and co-ed track for sixth through eighth grades. A roller hockey intramural program between Twelve Bridges and Glen Edwards middle schools is also offered year round. But, according to Glen Edwards’ athletic director/P.E. teacher Sandie Kepler, these sports opportunities could disappear in the near future. “Cutting the middle-school sports program is one of the things they’re talking about in the (Western Placer Unified School) district,” Kepler said. “They’re looking at cutting back the stipends at the middle schools for the coaches. We don’t know for sure what might happen. But there has been talk around campus from our union reps going to budget negotiations that stipends could be cut.” To balance next year’s budget, the school district has to cut $3 million, according to past News Messenger reports. Stipends for the approximately 18 coaches run between $1,200 and $1,800 each, according to Kepler. The school district pays the coach stipends, she explained, while the school’s Association of Parents, Teachers and Students (APTS) pays all other expenses. Those expenses include uniforms, equipment, league fees and referee fees. With the school district paying coach stipends, the Glen Edwards sports program costs about $6,000 or $7,000 a year, according to Kepler. While that figure is relatively low, considering all the sports choices students have, that figure is not necessarily attainable. “It’s not very much,” Kepler admitted, “but when we do fundraisers, we only get $300 or $400. “Here at the middle school, all our funding to keep sports going comes from our parents.” A week ago Wednesday, the association met to let parents know that the sports program might be in jeopardy. They came up with a S.O.S. or “Support Our Sports” slogan. Scott Leaman, Western Placer Unified School District superintendent, told The News Messenger this week that it’s up to the school board to make budget cuts in May. As of Tuesday, he did not know the fate of coach stipends. “We want to be prepared in case we lose the stipends,” Kepler said. “We should be fine this year but we don’t know for the next school year. Our parents are determined to keep sports around as long as we can.” Whether middle school sports cuts are a possibility next year or in the next few years, it’s great that school staff and parents are being proactive now. Just as students need to learn academics in school, they also need to learn about sports. “The main reason about sports programs is it helps to keep kids off the streets and away from gangs,” Kepler said. “It gets them out of the house, keeps them active and gives them life skills they can use (team work, how to work with others, how to be responsible and being on time at practice).” And don’t forget the health factor tied into playing sports. Physical activity guidelines for youth, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2008, are “one hour or more of moderate or vigorous aerobic physical activity a day, including vigorous intensity physical activity at least three days a week. Examples of moderate intensity aerobic activities include hiking, skateboarding, bicycle riding and brisk walking. Vigorous intensity aerobic activities include bicycle riding, jumping rope, running and sports such as soccer, basketball and ice or field hockey. Children and adolescents should incorporate muscle-strengthening activities, such as rope climbing, sit-ups, and tug-of war, three days a week.Bone-strengthening activities, such as jumping rope, running and skipping, are recommended three days a week.” The Department of Health and Human Services’ former Secretary, Mike Leavitt, noted why the guidelines are needed. “The evidence is clear: regular physical activity over months and years produces long-term health benefits and reduces the risk of many diseases,” Leavitt said in a department press release. “The more physically active you are, the more health benefits you gain …. The recommended amount of physical activity in children and adolescents improves cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness as well as bone health, and contributes to favorable body composition. Interested community members who would like to help keep sports around at Glen Edwards Middle School can call Kepler at the school office (645-6370). The heath and fitness of some of Lincoln’s youth are at stake. Carol Feineman can be reached at carolf@goldcountrymedia.com.