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Published: Sunday, 7/3/2005

Lake sports return, but at what cost?

Kudos to the Lake Local School District for reinstating fall sports and all non-athletic extracurricular activities for the upcoming school year.

That goes double for the yeoman efforts of the grass-roots FLYERS organization, which has raised nearly $100,000 in private donations, without the intervention of which the unanimous 4-0 vote by the school board wouldn't have been possible.

Not to be the bearer of bad news, but did the board, in its haste to right a perceived wrong, err on the side of compassion, considering Lake voters have turned down five consecutive levies with a sixth vote due in November?

Have they doomed themselves for the future by thinking short-term instead of long-term?

"I'm happy for the kids. [But] I don't know what's best for the school and what's best for the community,'' Lake High School athletic director Dave Shaffer said Friday, the day after the vote.

Understand that Shaffer, who is entering his 18th year working in the Lake athletic department, has a lot at stake.

He stands to gain personally and financially because his position as Lake's athletic director was eliminated last month. He is now expected to regain those duties, along with his salary.

Shaffer, while being happy for the students, their families and all the coaches and administrators now back on the payroll, understands that a lot more money needs to be raised so that budgets can be met.

So far, members of the fund-raising group FLYERS (Funding Lake's Youth: Embracing, Rebuilding, Supporting) have raised approximately half of the announced $200,000 total needed to keep extracurriculars alive for 2005-06.

However, some school officials project the amount as closer to $280,000 or $300,000.

"I understand both sides of the issue. I understand the need for kids to be involved in activities and what it does for the community. I'm also understanding of running a school district or a business and being financially responsible with the money,'' Shaffer said. "Obviously, there need to be continued fund-raising efforts. Fund-raising is a difficult task.

"And to have to raise large amounts of money in a sustained effort can be very time-consuming. There's obviously a lot of work to do yet, to be able to reinstate winter and spring sports. And the biggest thing of all is to pass the school levy in November. It's an uphill challenge.''

So please forgive Shaffer, who, while being eternally grateful to have his job back, isn't turning cartwheels because the fate of Lake sports beyond the fall season still hasn't been determined.

The board made the right decision. The hope of the board and of Lake supporters was to raise money to save fall sports. They've done that. Lake's current group of seniors will have their last hurrah.

But what about next year, and the year after that? Will Lake's voters break a recent trend and finally pass the levy in November?

More importantly, if the levy fails for a sixth straight time, will Lake's supporters continue to be diligent in their Herculean fund-raising efforts to keep sports alive?

Stay tuned.

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