Lacrosse will have to wait at JF

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By Tom Wilmoth

    Students hoping to have lacrosse as a varsity sport at Jefferson Forest High School next spring will have to wait at least one more year following a vote by the Bedford County School Board Thursday night.

    On a 5-3 vote, the board voted down a motion to add the sport for next year. Three board members in the JF district — David Black, Gary Hostutler and Julie Bennington — voted in favor of the motion while Mickey VanDerwerker, Debbie Hoback, Joy Wright, Shirley McCabe and David Vaden cast the votes defeating it.

    A strong contingent of supporters of the lacrosse program turned out for the vote and several spoke on the issue. “I would like to play lacrosse at Jefferson Forest before I graduate next year,” stated Chris Masseth. Currently lacrosse is a club sport at the school.

    Jenipher Willoughby said she has been impressed with the work the Forest Youth Athletic Association has put in to organize and provide the sport for that community. “I am amazed at what I have observed,” Willoughby said, adding that she has two boys, 8 and 10, who are participating for the first time. “There is a groundswell of community support (for it).”

    Added Ava Rupert, who coaches a girls lacrosse team. “You’re voting on the future of the kids,” she said.

    One of the selling points by JF lacrosse supporters was that all of the expense for funding the program would be handled by parents and others in the community. Victor Clarke, FYAA president, tried to assure the board that the $40,000 in costs would be totally funded outside of the school budget.

    “We will find the money,” he told the board. “There’s no risk to Bedford County for this. We will fund this.”

    Clarke said the students had worked hard towards that goal of adding it as a varsity sport. “They love this game,” he said. “Just vote for it and let them make the magic happen.”

    JF principal Tony Francis stated that once the sport is added, it should be treated as any other sport at the school. “As a school board, you’re going to be obligated once you vote to put this in,” he said.

    Hoback said that while she would like to see the request happen, she didn’t want to obligate the board at this point. “I think there are too many unknowns,” she said.

    Other board members agreed.

    VanDerwerker said she felt by adding it “a difficult precedent” could be set on how schools add and fund extra-curricular activities. She said the board shouldn’t make a decision based on how much money parents have to support it.

    Hostutler, however, said the proposal presented a unique opportunity for the school system. “It’s really taken off,” he said. He added that “not everything’s equal” across the school system. “We can’t level everything,” he said.

    He said the level of participation in PTAs differs across the school system and different schools focus on different programs. He pointed to the FFA programs at Liberty and Staunton River high schools as an example.

    The board said that further discussions on funding for lacrosse and other extra curricular activities would be held as preliminary budget talks in August.