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Middle school athletics cut from APS budget

Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque Public Schools has decided to drop its middle school athletics program to help address massive budget cuts.

Spokeswoman Monica Armenta said the budget steering committee discussed the option for months, but she heard Thursday that they have made it final.

APS currently offers intermural volleyball, basketball and track and field at the middle school level. Cutting them will save up to $500,000 to $750,000 each year. Regular physical education classes will not be affected.

Armenta was not sure how many students are participating in the middle school athletics program. “We're trying to keep the cuts away from the classroom,” Armenta said. “We have been very clear that everything is on the table.”

APS Athletic Director Ken Barreras declined to comment and referred questions to Armenta.

One parent called the district's move disheartening.

“It's really discouraging to see that they will not have these opportunities next year as it was a way to keep them occupied, healthy and active,” said Leah Ray, the parent of a seventh-grade girl at Lyndon Johnson Middle School who plays basketball and just started volleyball this year.

And from a financial perspective, she said, “as we all know, it costs a lot of money to play club ball, and not all parents … can afford this.”

While APS and other school districts are still awaiting a special legislative session that will determine their fiscal year 2018 budgets, Armenta said administrators must make some decisions before the final numbers are set.

Schools have to complete their individual budgets, and the academic year is drawing to a close.

Last week, the APS Board of Education approved a budget scenario based on a 2 percent reduction for the next fiscal year – administrators' best guess for what they might see after the special session.

That scenario chopped the middle school athletic program for a projected $1.2 million savings. Numbers often shift during the budget planning process.

Armenta said the budget steering committee is meeting daily to grapple with the options, which include increasing class sizes, a heavier high school schedule and reduction in work days for all employees.

Some of the changes would have to be negotiated with unions. Others are under administrators' control but are still under consideration.

For instance, a high school schedule that includes six classes a day – up from the current five – is listed in the approved budget scenario, though it is not in place. High school principals were asked to come up with a plan that includes five classes per day and another that includes six while the debate continues.

Armenta said the budget process has been painful.

APS has already gone through two rounds of reductions for the current fiscal year, adding up to a $25 million loss.

“We have been very, very transparent in saying these cuts are unprecedented, and there is not too much more you can do when you have 90 percent of your funding going to salary and benefits,” Armenta said.

Journal Staff Writer James Yodice contributed to this report.

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