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Ashland schools cut days, middle school sports

ASHLAND — The Ashland School District will cut two days from next academic year's calendar and will eliminate all middle school after-school sports programs to try to close an expected $1.3 million budget gap, Superintendent Juli Di Chiro announced Monday.

The School Board unanimously approved Di Chiro's calendar for next school year, cutting one instructional day and one in-service day, and saving the district $160,000.

She also told the board that all superintendents in the region have decided as a group to eliminate after-school sports at middle schools next academic year to save money.

"This was a very difficult regional decision and the only reason we're going here is because of the depth of cuts in our region," Di Chiro said.

That means Ashland Middle School will have no after-school sports programs next year, saving the district $110,000, she said.

"The fact that it's a regional decision means that there would be no one for us to play, so we have to kind of go along with it," Di Chiro said.

Middle school Principal Steve Retzlaff said he's working to create other opportunities for students. Almost 50 percent of the school's 540 students are involved in after-school sports, he said.

"That's a huge void, to think about half the school taking advantage of those programs and opportunities, and it reinforces how important it is for us to fill that void," he said.

Di Chiro and Retzlaff said they will present more information on potential alternatives to after-school sports at the April School Board meeting. Retzlaff said he is trying to work with community sports clubs and coaches to provide students with a chance to learn how to play football, basketball and other sports.

The calendar for next academic year cuts a professional development day for teachers in October and the instructional day before Thanksgiving, giving students a five-day weekend.

The district still will meet state requirements for hours students must spend in school, so it won't be penalized and forced to restore the days in future years, Di Chiro said. The district saves money when it cuts calendar days because it doesn't have to pay teachers or most other workers on those days.

Administrators are working to craft the budget for next academic year. In April, Di Chiro will present a comprehensive list of proposed cuts to the School Board.

Board member Keith Massie said he hopes school officials can think creatively to lessen the sting of the budget cuts.

"We assume that if we don't have anyone to play against, we can't have a football team, but scrimmaging can be fun," he said. "Let's think outside the box."

Hannah Guzik is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. She can be reached at 541-708-1158 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.