Extracurricular programs come at a cost

I’m hearing that some people are concerned about the environmental impact of the possible Polymet mine, crude oil pipelines, additions, enhancements etc., Canadian tar sands and in general the use (burning) of fossil fuels.

So, one might ask how does the ISD 166 operation fit into these concerns? Consider just their basketball program for now. The 2015-16 season requires ISD 166 to make 12 school bus trips to various towns in northern Minnesota, and other schools will make 11 school bus trips to ISD 166 in Cook County.

Because Cook County is so remote, the nearest competitor, Silver Bay, is 100 miles round trip. Nashwauk- Kewatin is 280 miles round trip; Barnum 282 miles; Floodwood 280 miles etc. All told, Cook County’s basketball program adds over 400 miles on various school buses at 7-8 miles per gallon of fuel (diesel) and requires a driver at $18 per hour portal to portal.

Now add to these school bus trips for volleyball, baseball, softball, the very expensive game of tackle football (equipment, bodies and brains), skiing (four trips to Giants Ridge) and whatever other sports that travel and you begin to imagine the tremendous cost.

Is this financial and environmental cost prudent for mostly a small minority of the student body? Is physical exercise for the rest of the student body less important? Is there an obesity problem in the United States? Does ISD 166 need more money? Does ISD 166 care about fossil fuel consumption and all the wear and tear on these expensive buses? Are these sports programs more important than classroom time for all students?

Consider this: Drop the entire traveling sports complex. Keep everything local. Go co-ed in all athletic activities. Get back to days long enough for healthy free breakfasts and lunches for all students, mandatory daily exercise (optional for staff) and a noon siesta. A staggered breakfast would be possible because the buses with the largest number of high school students would arrive slightly later.

For exercise, the school would have first priority over the Y building (Cook County owned) and all of its amenities. Plus two other gymnasiums, outdoor fields and of course, the great outdoors. Tail football anyone? How about starting with the present, talented athletes teaching their skills to the entire students body and on a continuum basis? There must be a very cooperative and supporting role from the school board, superintendent and principal with the teaching staff and other employees.

I believe with proper leadership ISD 166 could become a healthy, academic, environmentally concerned power house! You be the judge.

Steve Carlson
Grand Marais

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