Ennis School sees interest in softball program

The Ennis School trustees heard further discussion about adding a softball program to the school’s extracurricular activities during their Dec. 13 board meeting.

The board was first approached about the possibility during their November meeting by Jamie Lovett and Kelly Knack. Lovett and Knack are both involved in a summer recreation softball league and, with the growth of that program, brought the idea of creating a high school program to the board.

“Softball is growing and it’s going to keep growing, as is Ennis,” Knack told trustees.

During last month’s meeting, Lovett and Knack provided information on Title IX requirements, program startup costs and interest from the community.

“This is the most interest we’ve ever had,” said Knack, noting the rec program has gone from 10 girls to 54 in five years. “We’re here asking for more time to at least explore opportunities for fundraising.”

Both Knack and Lovett said Montana High School Association rules allow for a one-time fundraising event to help offset start-up costs, which was the biggest thing on Ennis’ Athletic Director Paul Bills’ mind.

“You can do a one-time thing to raise costs, like we did with the football stadium lights,” said Bills. “After that, everything has to be equitable.”

Bills estimated a startup cost of $30,000 for the program, with an additional $20,000 every year after.

Ennis Schools Superintendent Casey Klasna mentioned the financial aspect of adding a new program at the school, and noted recent budget cuts during the state’s special legislative session.

“I share a passion for student opportunities but I’m strictly thinking financially how this might affect the school,” he said. “The special session brought more cuts to education and we don’t know the future of our federal funding. Costs are risky.”

Lovett and Knack said a fundraising event likely would raise enough money for the initial startup, plus a year or two for continued costs.

“We know how generous this community is we’re just asking for the opportunity to have more time to research and reach out to people before you make a decision,” Lovett said.

Bills’ main concern was taking students away from other spring activities already offered by the school.

“That’s my biggest concern,” he said, adding a lot of nonathletic events take place in the spring like the school play and FCCLA. “In track and golf, because they’re individual sports, students can miss a practice. With softball, you can’t miss and it’s a total commitment, which could be devastating to our nonathletic programs, in my opinion.”

The board has until May 1 to inform the MSHA if they choose to create a softball program.

In other business

• Continued discussion of an alternate diploma for students on a case-by-case basis.

• Continued discussion of a student drug testing policy with the hope to adopt a first reading by the March meeting.

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