Cody High School will offer the same full slate of athletics and activities in the 2017-18 academic year as it did previously, Cody activities director Tony Hult confirmed to the Star-Tribune on Friday.
Hult and Park County School District No. 6 Superintendent Ray Schulte both spoke at the most recent Wyoming High School Activities Association meeting in April and expressed hesitation of joining Class 4A during the reclassification committee discussions, stating that the school could lose athletics programs regardless of the committee’s decision.
The reclassification for volleyball, basketball and track passed, meaning Cody will compete in Class 4A in all three of those sports in the 2017-18 school year. Cody will remain Class 3A in football, cross country, golf, soccer, swimming and wrestling.
After Green River High School announced cutting three activities altogether (spring golf, spring tennis and indoor track), Hult told the Star-Tribune in a conversation that Cody was looking at making similar cuts. Another option on the table was the alpine and Nordic ski teams.
Park County School District No. 6, of which Cody is part, was tasked with cutting “between $70,000 and $80,000 out of the activities budget,” Hult said. “That did not include a program.”
Instead, the school district has eliminated assistant coaching positions in boys and girls swimming at the high school and elementary levels. It was noted that the participation numbers in the Cody swimming program were significantly lower than other sports.
The preferred method to solving the budget issue for Park County School District No. 6 has been attrition. Not filling vacancies left by outgoing coaches or teachers has been standard in the last three years, if it was determined that losing that position would not be detrimental to the students or faculty.
“We’ve looked at those programs where our numbers are right now and what would be detrimental to our student athletes,” Hult said. “We could bring those positions back if our numbers go up.”
Cody is also eliminating some travel expenses, no longer paying for students’ meals, for example, and increasing activities fees in order to help offset cuts.
Hult noted that apart from the budgetary issues, Cody has been dealing with declining enrollment.
Cody was previously in Class 4A with an enrollment near 750 but estimate just 575 for the upcoming academic year.
“That’s a huge percentage of our population,” Hult said. “From a competitive standpoint, moving up to 4A is a tough hand.”
Powell, just 24 miles from Cody, has a lower cost of living and has seen a rise in enrollment numbers. Hult noted there are faculty members at Cody that live in Powell.
Hult praised Schulte’s foresight as a reason Cody avoided cutting programs. Cody had begun eliminating some positions through attrition as early as three years ago, which had prepared the school district for its current financial situation and kept them from cutting far more money out of its activities budget.
“That’s been very beneficial,” Hult said. “The last couple years they’ve done a great job of getting ahead of the game.”
“If our district replaced everyone back then, we would be losing teachers and definitely cutting programs (now).”
Early retirement packages were also offered to eligible teachers and administrators, of which 12 were accepted. Some of those positions have already been filled or will be by the start of the next academic year.
It was reiterated that the school district may see more significant cuts next year. Cutting entire activity programs would be a likely scenario for Cody if the budget situation doesn’t improve.
“It saves things for at least another year,” Hult said.