VISD trustees review soccer results

Vernon school trustees were presented results of a district survey of students concerning a proposal to add a soccer program to the district’s sports offerings at the middle school and high school levels during their monthly business meeting Monday.
Vernon Middle School Principal Blaise Boswell said that surveys of the school’s 408 students found that 37 students indicated an interest in playing including 18 sixth graders and 19 eighth graders but “zero” seventh graders. He reported that nine of those 37 students were not involved in other athletic programs. Boswell also reported, however, that no other middle schools in Vernon’s district have a soccer program, which would require a VMS team to travel considerable distance to play other teams.
The survey at Vernon High School found that 39 students expressed interest in a soccer program. VHS Principal Tommy Cummings said his school’s survey that most of the surveyed students were freshmen and sophomores but very few juniors. However, he also noted that some of those surveyed students were involved in other sports and would have to drop one of those other sports in order to play soccer.
The proposed season would run from mid-November through mid-March with state finals scheduled in April, according to guidelines set by the University Interscholastic League (UIL). This would cover just about the entire basketball season and would also cover portions of the wrestling, softball, track and tennis seasons.
“It (a soccer program) would literally affect ever sport we have now,” said Supt. Jeff Byrd.
Byrd said the cost for the district to implement a soccer program is estimated at $90,000 for the first year but would drop a bit after that time as first-year expenses would involved start-up costs such as modifications to Lion Stadium.
“I’m a proponent of soccer as it would involve kids not in other sports now. I don’t see any negative effect on other sports,” said trustee Chris Lehman. However we are facing financial issues and need to determine the best use of our tax dollars.”
One of the most pressing financial issues facing VISD is the impending shut down of the AEP Oklaunion Power Station sometime in 2020 which was announced earlier this year, which would reduce the district’s tax base by an estimated $1.4 to 2 million in just the first year after the plant’s closure. Byrd said that even a very large wind farm project would not make up for such funding loss.
“I’m not anti-soccer,” Byrd said. “I’m concerned about other district needs.”
Lehman said that he did not want to close the door on a district soccer program, suggesting that other options be found to pay for it.
Earlier in the meeting during a public participation session, local resident Meg Heatly expressed her appreciation to the district for conducting the survey of students. She said that her findings indicated that some 76 students in the district showed interest in a soccer program, which is well above the 15-16 players needed to start a team.
“This is an overwhelming number,” she said. “I’m looking forward to a community meeting on this issue.”
Heatly said she recently saw a large number of soccer teams playing at Orbison Park.
“The enthusiasm and support is there,” she said.
Parents of children interested in playing soccer have been in active in requesting that the school board consider adding soccer to the lost of sports offered by the district. Other area school district’s within Vernon’s UIL district with soccer programs at least at the high school level include Burkburnett, Hirschi and Graham, for which with the Lions compete in other sports.
The drive to get a soccer program at the middle school and high school levels for VISD began a year ago when VHS student Valerie Mejia submitted a petition to the school board to add soccer as a sport. The board of trustees considered the addition of soccer at the high school in a meeting last October and decided to study the issue further, conduct a survey of current students, and hold a community meeting – which has not been scheduled as of this writing. Parents have continued to attend VISD board of trustees meetings throughout the year to encourage support for the addition of soccer and to press for the survey and community meeting.

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