Unity Junior High board holding off on adding sports

Unity Junior High board holding off on adding sports

TOLONO – There will be no new sports at Unity Junior High School for the 2007-08 season.

The Unit 7 school board has decided to wait until May to make a decision on whether to offer baseball, softball and wrestling at the junior high. If approved, Unity could start the programs through the Illinois Elementary School Association by the 2008-2009 season.

Athletic Director Scott Hamilton has made a formal application for membership in the Junior High Okaw Conference and plans to attend the conference's March meeting to make his case for Unity Junior High School.

The conference members are expected to vote in May on whether to invite Unity to join.

Hamilton, Unity Junior High School Principal Mary Hettinger and Superintendent Michael Shonk will also create a plan for practice and playing locations, how many players will be on the teams, how many games are going to be played and ensuring that the new sports' schedules do not conflict with area communities' park district programs.

"I think it's important to continue our relationship with the park districts," Hamilton said. "I don't want our programs to come at the expense of the park district programs."

Startup expenses for the three programs would be between $25,000 and $30,000 total, for equipment, umpires, buses, uniforms and coaching stipends.

High school baseball coach Dan Cunningham, softball coach Erin Leichty and wrestling coach Bob Case said in October that junior high "feeder" programs would make their teams more successful.

"I think they'll be a little disappointed," Hamilton said. "But they understand where we're at."

The junior high currently has volleyball, boys' and girls' basketball, cross-country and track teams. Hamilton said the new sports could also conflict with those sports, particularly with softball, which would overlap with about three weeks of girls' basketball.

"We definitely took a step forward regarding this topic," Hamilton said Thursday. "We need to work through the issues and make good decisions."

In other business Wednesday, Shonk told the board that it appears the state board of education will recommend a fiscal year 2008 budget to the governor and General Assembly that calls for increases in general state aid and the Early Childhood Block Grant. The increases are expected to total about $800 million, he said.

"A lot of people think this is going to fly," he said. "If this is indeed going to pass, where's the money going to come from?" The state Senate has been discussing proposals to sell or lease the 274-mile Illinois Tollway, Shonk noted.

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