A room full of applause met the District 204 Board’s decision to officially sanction lacrosse as an official extracurricular high school sport.
The vote came after multiple discussions by the board and months of public comments from the lacrosse community, asking it to be elevated from the club level.
“There’s two things that make these students better students,” said David Wentz, a lacrosse parent. “You have academic eligibility that you don’t have a club sport, you also have drug testing and alcohol awareness that makes them ineligible.”
The official sanction also means that the district’s teams will be able to play against other official teams and participate in IHSA’s state series, though lacrosse differs from other district sports in that it will be completely funded by parents.
That’s because the district can’t afford to take on the cost, which is estimated to be over $200,000 for the first year. Currently they are owed over $15 million by the state – which is unable to pay because of the budget impasse in Springfield.
The alternative funding model is a first for the district, and though it is a solution to achieving sport status for lacrosse, it also creates a new dilemma in that kids who can’t afford to pay, now won’t be able to play, and some board members weren’t comfortable with that idea.
“This is supposed to be public education for all of our kids and if we can’t offer the same opportunity, an equitable opportunity for all of our kids, I don’t see how we can talk about this at all,” said board member Cathy Piehl.
Still, the majority of board members decided the pros of sanctioning the sport outweighed the cons of the alternative funding model.
“I don’t want to deny kids the opportunity to participate and to participate for their school in the state conference,” said board member Michael Raczak. “Is it my preference? No, but it’s desperate times and at this point we’re doing desperate measures.”
To help those who might not be able to pay, the board suggested setting up scholarships or increasing fees for students to help cover those who can’t afford it.
The board will revisit lacrosse in two years in hopes of being able to provide financial support to the sport.
District 204’s first official lacrosse season will begin next spring.
Naperville News 17’s Blane Erwin reports.
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