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This past March, on the slopes of Seven Springs Mountain Resort in Champion, Pa., Hardy Middle School captured the D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association middle-school ski championship. That honor likely will never go to another school again: This week, Hardy ski coaches sent out a letter informing parents that school-system officials are killing the ski program.
With D.C. Public Schools administrators busily cutting their budgets, skiing is a target for trimmingalong with several other institutions of secondary-school life, including junior-varsity football, indoor track, and cheerleading. School system officials say they hope that volunteers will replace paid coaches and keep the sports going.
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But Hardy ski coach Patricia Teel says skiing poses challenges other sports don’t. No volunteer, she argues, is going to want to contend with the logistics of ski-trip planning or raising money to subsidize the cost of transportation and lift tickets. “I am upset,” says Teel. “With children today being overweight…and with all the cutting of arts and music…what else can they take from them?”
Even if D.C.’s school system emerges from its budget woes, it’s not likely the ski program will return. Officials have ensured its demise by eliminating the job of athletics coordinator Harold Plummer, who had run the ski program since 1973. Plummer, then a physical-education teacher, started the program after he and his family went skiing in New England. “We were the only black people on the mountain,” he says. “My son had no problem with that, but I was thinking about my students at Evans Junior High School, who live in a black environment. It’s very difficult, sometimes, going out of your own element to see that life is different.”
Plummer started with 27 students. Over the years, the ski program has survived declining enrollment and several budget crises, including one in the late ’80s that nearly wiped it out, says Plummer. Last year, more than 2,000 students from 60 schools participated in the program, and 117 kids competed in the championships. Says Plummer: “My philosophy…is exposure is 90 percent of education, but you have to make it a positive experience. And that is what I’ve tried to do with the ski program.” CP