Schools set special meeting on sports

The Hood River County School District continues its fight to stay in the Mt. Hood Conference for athletics in 2002-03.

The school board decided Wednesday to hold a community meeting next week to hear from the public on how it wants the district to proceed with the Hood River Valley High School athletic budget and schedule for next season.

The district must find a way to make up an expected $30,000 deficit that would result from the impending shift from the Portland-based Mt. Hood Conference to the Intermountain Conference, made up of schools in central and eastern Oregon.

The district has asked the state Board of Education to appoint a hearings officer to listen to its appeal of the OSAA decision. Superintendent Jerry Sessions expects the hearing to be scheduled later this month. Sessions told the school board he can't predict the outcome of the appeal because no one has ever appealed an OSAA decision to the state board.

The Oregon School Activities Association decided last month to shift HRVHS to the IMC, a move that district officials say represents a hardship to the district because of increased travel time and costs to places such as Bend and Pendleton.

District officials said the IMC realignment would aggravate the impacts from impending state-mandated budget cuts. The district is looking at cutting $2 million in the next biennium, under projections released this month by Gov. John Kitzhaber.

Despite telling the OSAA that costs in joining the IMC would be prohibitive, HRV athletic director Glenn Elliott said he has proceeded with scheduling games with IMC opponents.

Elliott said this is the time of year when districts go through the scheduling process, and that HRV needs to set something up for 2002-03, aside from the pending OSAA decision.

Sessions agreed. "Our fear was we did not want to get down the road and find out we didn't have any playing opportunities for our kids," he said.

The special meeting on athletics will be at 7 p.m. on Jan. 17 in the media center at HRV. The board will review the status of district appeal and OSAA decision and take questions and comments from the community.

"Based on that meeting, we'll put something together for the Jan. 23 board meeting," Sessions said.

Since December, the board has looked at four main options for the 2002-03 athletic season: cutting or reducing sports, pursuing an independent schedule, going to the IMC, and having no sports.

"We looked at dropping sports but that is not something we want to do. It's not in the best interest of the students," Sessions said.

However, Elliott told the school board Wednesday that an independent schedule is proving nearly impossible to assemble, aside from a partial football schedule.

In a Dec. 21 letter to OSAA director Tom Welter, Sessions wrote that reconsideration of the IMC move is warranted "in light of the economic hardship this decision will impose on the district."

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