An extremely controversial decision was put on hold this week when the Barbour County Board of Education tabled a vote on the possible elimination of middle school sports coaching positions.
The positions were among 53 extracurricular contracts on the chopping block Monday due to lack of funding or need. The middle school coaching positions oversee football, boys and girls basketball, cheerleading, cross country and volleyball.
Representatives from a grassroots parents group, the Barbour All County Sports Organization, attended Monday's meeting to ask Board of Education members to speak with them before deciding on the coaching positions.
In the end, board members voted to eliminate all the extracurricular contracts except the middle school coaches, and agreed to meet with the parents group at 6 p.m. Feb. 25 during the board's next regular meeting.
Although the delay gives parents a glimmer of hope, BOE President Bob Wilkins reminded everyone a decision on the middle school coaching positions must be made at the Feb. 25 meeting, in order to meet state deadlines.
No one wants to see middle school sports eliminated in Barbour County, but county Superintendent of Schools Dr. Joseph Super told The Inter-Mountain the school system's financial problems have put officials in a tough position.
"We did a thorough and efficient survey of our school system and looked at all programs and positions," Super said, adding that county residents passed on a chance to fully fund school sports and many other programs during November's election.
"When we presented the school bond and levy, it gave residents the opportunity to speak up," Super said. "The voters spoke and at that time they said they cannot support these items."
We understand the financial realities of the situation, but we believe it would be a mistake for Barbour's middle school sports programs to be eliminated.
Cutting the programs will definitely make life more difficult for students as well as teachers and parents. What will Barbour's middle school kids do instead of participating in athletics? Sports keep kids motivated to do well in school, and help keep them out of trouble in the evenings. Students will also surely miss the exercise, a troubling thought considering that West Virginia is one of the most obese states in the U.S.
The county's high school sports programs will survive - at least for now - but how good can those teams be if their incoming freshmen haven't played the games before, or been coached in the fundamentals? High school sports bring in more money through ticket sales than middle school sports, but will the public continue to support the high school teams if they aren't competitive?
This will be a lose-lose situation for Barbour County. We urge the Barbour Board of Education to consider all possible alternatives to eliminating the middle school sports programs. It's doubtful that any vote they will ever cast will have a wider or more long-lasting impact on their community.