Mohawk Trail weighs cutting sports teams amid low enrollment

  • Mohawk Trail Regional School. Mohawk Trail is weighing eliminating sports programs or forming cooperatives with other schools amid dwindling enrollment. STAFF FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 8/19/2019 11:18:32 PM

BUCKLAND — As enrollment continues to wane, Mohawk Trail Regional School officials are considering cutting sports programs or forming cooperatives with other schools.

In total, Mohawk Trail Athletics has 34 sporting teams; 21 are varsity level. Forty-three percent of students played sports during the 2018 to 2019 school year, up from 40 percent the previous school year, according to Athletics Director Greg Vouros.

However, the school has made cuts to sports in recent years due to low enrollment rates. Boys soccer was eliminated last year, for example, as too few students signed up.

Decisions about programs for the 2019 to 2020 school year will be made within the first few weeks of school, Vouros said. He said that while he does not want to cut programs, the school must consider the sustainability of a program if only a few students are interested in participating. Sometimes teams are forced to forfeit games if a couple of members are sick.

“There were a couple scenarios last year when we had to forfeit one of our games” Vouros explained. “We don’t want to have to call up schools and say, ‘Hey, we can’t play today because a couple of our players are sick.’”

Several teams failed to hit their membership targets last year, including fall teams, whose seasons are fast approaching.

The target for boys cross country is 15, while Mohawk Trail had six players on the team in the 2018 to 2019 school year. The girls cross country team has the same target, while last year’s team had nine players. The target for football is 30 players, while there were 19 players on the team last year. Golf also fell short: its target is 16 and its team had six players. Girls volleyball was similar: its target was 12 while its team had 10 players.

On the other hand, a couple of fall teams exceeded their goals last year. Field hockey fulfilled its target of 16 players, with 18 students on the team. Girls soccer also hit the mark — its target and total players were both 18.

To increase numbers, Vouros said some sports programs, like track, cross country and golf, would accept middle school students. Others, like football, would not, due to the more physical nature of that sport, he said.

School Committee member Kara Kitchen said during a meeting last Wednesday that introducing late buses may encourage more students to join sports. She said parents may be willing to pay for the service, and suggested buses may even go to a central location like Sanderson Academy.

“I think we lose a lot of students because they can’t get to and from school,” Kitchen said. “We have people who are traveling 25, 30 miles.”

A handful of parents attended the meeting to express concerns about the potential sports program cuts. Many said the school should not cut teams given that elementary schools are seeing rising enrollment levels.

Jennifer Royer-Pease of Ashfield said cutting sports programs would be “a little short-sighted, right now,” as “we’re right on the cusp of that change.”

Royer-Pease added that eliminating sports may prompt students to leave the school district entirely.

“I think that if you start to take away from the athletics, whether with a co-op or teams are cut, you’re going to lose more students,” she said. “I think you need to wait this out another couple years.”

Toby Bassett of Colrain urged the school district to introduce more sports for elementary students. As a volunteer at Colrain Central School, he started a basketball program this year, and said it was popular among students, with some “sitting on the bench.”

“We need to start building the program up, from the ground up,” Bassett said. “Kids aren’t going to come to seventh grade never playing sports. They want to be part of that at a young age. It’s healthy for them to be part of that.”




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