Small enrollment creates loss for Andes athletic programs

By Matthew J. Perry
The Andes Central School Board of Education met Thursday to reckon with problems expected with spring sports and to receive updates on a variety of events planned for students in the spring and ongoing negotiation with the school’s teachers.
Much of the meeting highlighted the school administrator’s ability to propose creative solutions to problems created by small enrollment and limited funds, particularly in the athletic department.
Superintendent John Bernhardt detailed the difficulties facing the spring sports program. Girls’ softball and boys’ baseball have attracted little interest, and the few students who expect to play these sports were approved to participate in the Margaretville program. These shortfalls “are forcing us to make some important, long-term decisions about where we’re going with athletics,” Bernhardt said.
Students have been surveyed about their interest in variety of sports that have not been offered in the past. The result was the expression of “tremendous interest” in both tennis and track among boys and girls. While ACS does not have the facilities on site to field teams, the athletic departments at both SUNY Delhi and Delaware Academy have expressed willingness to let Andes students use equipment on their campuses. Track and tennis teams would have to be co-ed, and students would have to be allowed to participate in both sports. Bernhardt was also hopeful that the National Tennis Association could make donations of equipment to students.
Experimentation with sports in all seasons may be required because of fluctuation of interest and the small number of students enrolled. Student interest in athletics remains very high. “We have great ratios,” said Bernhardt. “We just don’t have enough kids.”
Supervisors for the March trip to Puerto Rico presented the itinerary for 16 students who will depart on Tuesday, March 11 and return on March 19. Since 19 students have signed up, final selections will be based upon grades and discipline records. The trip will include a visit to an endangered coral reef, opportunity to learn the basics of snorkeling, a hike through a nature reserve and camping in several locations. The students will create reports of their trip upon return.
Fundraising for this trip is ongoing, with a raffle and two dinners planned in February. The first dinner will be a potluck for students, and the second will be prepared by Rosalie Glauser, owner of the Slowdown Café. Both dinners will be held at Andes Central School.
It was noted by several people in attendance that these fundraisers needed to be promoted more energetically. David Cyrelson, of the Andes PTA, noted that many residents who would be happy to help the students raise money are simply unaware that the trip is taking place. Cyrelson informed the board that work on an Andes Central School website is in process, and that a prominent feature of the site should be a calendar for all scheduled events. In the meantime, students were encouraged to put up fliers in town and speak with local merchants.
The board approved Dylan Tucker and Robin Henderson as substitute teachers, the Puerto Rico trip and an overnight Outdoor Club trip to the White Mountains on April 10. The next board meeting was scheduled for February 14, rather than February 21, due to a scheduling conflict.
John Hopkins noted that the board had entered a “new world” since state aid to ACS was capped last year because the school district is now defined as too affluent to receive uncapped aid. Negotiations with teachers have been affected as a result. Hopkins reported that non-monetary issues have been settled but that salary and benefit discussions remain unresolved.
Bernhardt updated the board on cost estimates for an overhaul of the school’s public address system, which he described as “woefully antiquated.” The cost of the new system is not to exceed $130,000, including 20 percent in overhead costs. A public information meeting about the system is scheduled for February 5 at 7 p.m., and a vote on the chosen system will be cast on February 12.