The following post is a rare mixing of my blog and my newspaper work.
Tuesday night, I had the unenviable task of watching several hundred Buckeye High School and junior high kids have their hearts broken.
Unable to fund athletics without a levy passage, the school board of Buckeye, a district located in western Medina County, had to cut the program. All of it. Football, baseball, basketball, soccer, track, cross-country, wrestling, volleyball, tennis, golf, cheerleading and marching band.
The loss of the program existed only on paper until Tuesday night, when the board voted 3-2 to not accept an alternate funding plan that would have used private donations, pay-to-participate fees, and gate revenue from sporting events to front the nearly $500,000 it would have taken to keep the program afloat next school year.
Members of the board said they weren't convinced the money would be there to keep the program all of next school year.
Now, the loss of the athletic program is all too real. The program isn't coming back until a levy passes, and the next opportunity for that won't be until November. For the first time in its 52-year history, Buckeye won't field a football team next fall.
Looking at it objectively, it seems like jettisoning ballast for a sinking school district. Sports are great, I'll be the first to say, but compared to academics, they are far less important.
Then you look at the faces of the kids as they streamed out of the Buckeye High School auditorium Tuesday night. Their lives were over. Not in the literal sense, of course, but what was probably one of the biggest identifying aspects of their lives was being taken away.
Football players slammed lockers. Girls basketball players embraced in groups. Everybody was crying.
When you're 14,15 and 16, there isn't much that makes you somebody to the outside world. You don't have a career. You probably aren't that active in community causes. You are a student, a kid, just like everyone else your age. What makes you stand out, gives you purpose, an identity apart, are your extracurricular activities.
Many kids wore their brown and orange Buckeye uniforms to the meeting. They pleaded with the school board to keep athletics.
Several members of the school board were on the verge of breaking down emotionally, but in the end, the cold, calculating principles of risk and cause-and-effect prevailed.
Buckeye has finger-pointing to spare right now. Everybody has a culprit or culprits as to why sports has taken an indefinite leave of absence.
There are no happy faces in Buckeye right now. The adult world just interrupted the childhoods of about 800 kids. Before the first digit is pointed in blame, that is the saddest part.