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Nearly $100,000 in extracurricular cuts could face Perham schools

Junior high golf, One-Act Play, Knowledge Bowl and Mock Trial will be among the programs slashed under a proposal to reduce Activities Department expenses by $44,000.

If no money comes into the district over the next year, a second round of cuts totalling nearly $50,000 would eliminate junior high baseball, softball and girls tennis. High school tennis and the Science Fair program would also be eliminated.

Though not presently listed in the proposals, the community musical could also be in jeopardy.

The proposed cuts were outlined at the May 20 Perham-Dent School Board meeting by Activities Director Fred Sailer.

In explaining the rationale behind the cuts, Sailer said he tried to consider the level of student participation; whether or not students would leave the school, through open enrollment, if the programs were cut; and also long range sustainability of the program.

One-Act Play, for example, is a $2,100 annual expense. It is a valuable experience for students, but there is typically only a handful of students who are highly committed--and the rest of the acting cast has to be recruited--sometimes reluctantly.

Sailer was disappointed that he had to prepare the recommendations.

"We've always had the philosophy that there are no minor (insignificant) activities. For that kid, in that program, it might be the most important thing in the world to that student," said Sailer--whether that program is Science Fair, tennis or drama.

Unfortunately, said Sailer, the economic conditions have forced the school into the position of having to determine that one extracurricular activity or program is more important than another.

Another component of the Activity Department proposal is an increase in participation fees. For 7-8 graders, the fee to participate in extracurricular activities would rise from $40 to $50. For students in grades 9-12, it would increase from $75 to $100. For a family, the maximum fee for all activities would increase from $250 to $350.

Cutting extracurricular activities, and raising fees to families, raised a sternly cautionary comment from Sailer.

"If you cut programs, and those kids end up out on the streets....then you get what you pay for," said Sailer.