I like high school sports.
I like kids playing high school sports.
I like kids playing multiple high school sports.
So when looking at the question of whether Sonoma County’s largest school district should add another sport — in this case, lacrosse — to its slate of offerings, my first inclination was something close to, “Heck yes.”
But with consideration and some mixed feelings, it’s actually “Heck no.” At least right now. And here is why:
The proposal being floated by a group of active and well-intentioned supporters to add lacrosse as a spring sport at Santa Rosa City Schools campuses has some holes. And the holes are: Elsie Allen, Piner and Santa Rosa high schools.
The backers, largely made up of members of the Santa Rosa Lacrosse Club, have pitched their financial support behind bringing lacrosse to the district, but only at Maria Carrillo and Montgomery, at least at first. Under the proposal, those two schools would join the fledgling North Bay League and play the likes of Windsor, Rancho Cotate, Casa Grande and Petaluma, along with Cardinal Newman and Sonoma Academy.
This would give other schools time to gin up enthusiasm and potential players, they said.
Backers say Maria Carrillo and Montgomery are the epicenter of existing interest in the sport at the club level. They also say, with only 140 current club players in their system, they are too small to take on a larger financial obligation to the district.
I get it. That is a lot to ask a nonprofit sports club. But the district isn’t asking. This is an extra. And it needs to be fair.
I don’t think we would see a mass exodus from one campus to another because of where lacrosse is offered, but even if kids don’t leave one school or another, it’s a public relations nightmare. Another example of the haves and have nots.
Of Maria Carrillo’s student population, 19 percent qualified for free or reduced priced lunch in the most recent state statistics. Those numbers are the federal determiner of poverty. At Montgomery, the percentage is 40.5. At the schools not being backed for a team, Santa Rosa’s rate is 39 percent, Piner’s is 60.4 and Elsie’s is 91 percent.
It’s important to remember that the proposal to start with Maria Carrillo and Montgomery was based on existing interest, nothing nefarious. Also, the club offering support at all is no small gesture.
It’s not chump change we are talking about to kick start this thing.
A district-produced report presented at Wednesday night’s school board meeting came up with a figure of $37,712 to start up both a boys and girls program at one high school. Multiply that by five and it’s $188,560. That’s a lot of cash for a district that not too long ago cut library hours and school days from the calendar to save money.
Even if, as some argue, those are inflated estimates and a team can be established for much less, we are still talking about a lot of money.
Santa Rosa club officials have followed the lead of organizations and sport backers in Windsor, Rohnert Park and Petaluma, who are helping cushion the financial strain on school districts by doing some pretty heavy subsidizing right out of the gate.