TERRE HAUTE —
St. Patrick’s School athletic teams will not have an opportunity to compete against their Vigo County School Corp. middle school counterparts next year.
The parochial school was informed about six weeks ago that its athletic teams won’t be scheduled to compete against VCSC middle schools in 2013-14, said Principal Amy McClain.
“It was a surprise to our families,” she said.
The school district intends to stay within district for middle school competition, with limited out-of-county athletic events, she said.
Superintendent Dan Tanoos cites budget concerns related to transportation costs, and also the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and the need to limit hours of non-certified staff, including bus drivers, to 30 hours or less per week on average.
St. Patrick’s teams have competed with VCSC middle school teams for about the past 15 years, said Patty Mauer, the school’s athletic director. This year, she noted, only Honey Creek and Sarah Scott scheduled games with St. Pat’s.
Reacting to news that there will be no competition with VCSC schools next year, Mauer said, “I’m disappointed. We’ve had a great relationship with Vigo County as far as competing in different sports.”
As a result, “We will have to travel further to find games. It doesn’t mean we won’t have a pretty packed schedule, we just have to look in different places,” Mauer said.
St. Pat’s has competed with VCSC counterparts in volleyball, cross country, boys and girls basketball, girls’ tennis and track, Mauer said.
St. Patrick’s program won’t change, Mauer said. “We’ll still find venues to play and different schools to play so we feel we are giving our athletes adequate games to develop their skills,” she said.
At the same time, “It’s disappointing our kids can’t intermix and play each other when they will feed into the same high school system,” Mauer said. Also, St. Patrick’s is “in their [VCSC] back yard.”
Many St. Patrick’s students have gone on to Vigo County high schools and done well in athletics, McClain said. “We’re very proud of our graduates … We’re committed to providing a quality athletic program. We set the bar high and we want them to compete at high levels.”
If it means ramping up the schedule with more schools outside Vigo County, that’s what they’ll do, McClain said.
It does create some hardships and added expense for parents, McClain said. The school doesn’t have buses or a travel van, so families must transport their students to games.
St. Patrick’s does compete with middle schools in several surrounding counties, some Illinois schools and also some Catholic schools in Indianapolis.
The St. Patrick’s schedule will have to be increased, particularly for track, cross country and girls’ tennis — the tennis team has played only Vigo County schools, Mauer said.
Tanoos said the district had already been cutting down on games at the middle school level. “We were not playing them [St. Patrick’s] fully, anyway,” Tanoos said.
In making additional cuts, he cites transportation costs and the federal Affordable Care Act.
“Our transportation costs have gone through the ceiling,” he said. Next year, he said there will be much less travel for middle school athletic events, and elementary field trips also will be reduced.
He said the leadership at St. Patrick’s School has never contacted him about the decision by the VCSC athletic council, and he would be willing to discuss it with them.
When asked whether St. Patrick’s use of taxpayer-supported vouchers was a factor in the decision, he said, “It’s not about vouchers.”
But when students do leave the school district and make use of vouchers to attend St. Patrick’s, it does hurt the district’s bottom line — representing a loss of about $6,000 per student, he said.
Tanoos said he does support the school and recognizes St. Patrick’s “serves a great purpose in our community. They do a great job providing a parochial education,” he said.
Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.