Softball dropped, other sports could follow at Grand Valley High School in Parachute |

Softball dropped, other sports could follow at Grand Valley High School in Parachute

Jon Mitchell
Citizen Telegram Sports Editor

PARACHUTE — Grand Valley High School will not field a softball team in the fall, and other activities at the school could also be cut, school officials confirmed this week.

Grand Valley athletic director David Walck said that Garfield County School District 16 is currently gathering information to assess the need for certain extracurricular activities at the high school. That assessment includes the 14 sports and 12 after-school activities offered at the school.

“The last thing that we want to do is to cut opportunities for kids,” said Grand Valley principal Ryan Frink.

The cut of softball and potential cuts are due mostly to the school’s declining enrollment, which was at 400 students five years ago but, as of the beginning of the week, had dropped to 276, Walck said. Walck attributed the enrollment drop to the transient community Parachute is, noting the presence of children whose parents work in the natural gas industry during the school’s peak enrollment.

That said, Walck noted that 72 percent of students enrolled at Grand Valley take part in some kind of after-school activity, be it athletics or an after-school club. That’s the reason the school’s administration has surveyed students to help determine what programs to keep for the upcoming two-year classification cycle, as mandated by the Colorado High School Activities Association.

“We’re not necessarily approaching it by sport. We’re approaching it by participation numbers,” Walck said.

Walck said the number of students interested in playing softball was just enough to field each of the nine positions in a starting lineup. That, however, didn’t account for possible injuries, sickness or ineligible players. Any students from Grand Valley who are interested in playing softball next season could play for Rifle High School, which already uses softball players from neighboring schools, such as Meeker and Coal Ridge.

Grand Valley’s softball team finished the season 6-14 last season and went 10-42 since 2011.

Next in line would be sports defined as individual sports that don’t have a league schedule attached to it: Cross country, cheerleading, golf and wrestling. All of them, according to Walck, showed a low interest level among students surveyed. In that case, those programs would be asked to have a minimum number of participants to continue and would be asked to fundraise.

“We really believe that extracurricular activities enhance the learning environment,” Walck said. “It’s truly an extension of the classroom but, to us, it’s so much more than that.

“Coaches aren’t doing this for money,” Walck added. “They’re doing this to teach life skills and share their passion with young adults. But that’s hard to do if there’s no one for them to share that passion with.”

Walck and Frink said the school has received monetary grants from donors who want to remain anonymous over the past four years, and those grants have helped Grand Valley retain many of the sports offered. Walck said the school has received as much as $135,000 in grants in a school year, which supplements the $40,000 athletic budget that comes strictly from state funding.

That presents another problem, though. Frink said that although Colorado is bound by the state constitution to fund a certain amount of money for education, school districts have felt a shortfall in funding across the state. That, Frink said, has led to $4.5 million in lost funding for District 16 in the past four years.

“It would be like if you had a house mortgage that was $1,000 per month, then you went to your lender and said to them, ‘Well, I can only give you $800 for the next four years’,” the Grand Valley principal said. “That probably wouldn’t go over very well, but that’s what we’ve been dealing with.”

The declining enrollment for Grand Valley also means less funding from the state, which is another reason the school has applied for grants to keep its activities available to its students. There is no guarantee those grants will always be there, however, meaning the school district must look at other options.

“Moving forward if those grants fall through,” Frink said, “we’d have to look at this more from the perspective of a business model to see what we’d have to scale back.”

Other issues the district is addressing is the participation fee — $75 per sport and $20 per activity — and the price of admission to sporting events.

Employees of the school district, from school faculty to classified employees, met on Monday to discuss the needs of the school district in the years to come. That was also a topic of discussion during the district’s school board meeting on Tuesday.

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