A group of Palmerton residents plan to protest the potential elimination of several athletic programs in the Palmerton Area School District early next week.
The TIMES NEWS has learned that an assemblage of parents, student athletes and supporters will participate in a demonstration outside the Parkside Education Center at 5 p.m. Monday.
The Palmerton school board is scheduled to hold an executive session at 5:30 p.m. that will be closed to the public.
The demonstrators outside, however, will be voicing their concerns about the proposed cuts to the 2011-12 budget, according to Eric Strohl, a member of the Palmerton Youth Wrestling and Cheerleading Association, who, along with the Palmerton High School Wrestling Club, spearheaded the assembly.
At a budget workshop last Tuesday, the school board came up with another $145,221 worth of proposed cuts to next year's budget that anticipates a 6.8-percent, or 3-mill, increase in the property tax rate.
Of that amount, $71,975 is slated to be cut from high school/junior high school athletics that would eliminate high school wrestling, cross country, swimming, boys' and girls' soccer, golf, and tennis, along with junior high wrestling and cross country.
If any of those sports would be reinstated, they would have to be in accordance with Title 9, which would mean that a single sport could not be reinstituted without another sport with a comparable opportunity for the opposite sex.
But, Strohl said the proposed cuts could put the district in jeopardy because it could lose its membership status in the Colonial League, according to the organization's website.
"In the Colonial League, for a school to maintain membership, we have to participate in at least 70 percent of the sponsored sports," Strohl said. "If they cut those six programs, we fall below 50-percent participation; right there spells our doom in the Colonial League."
Strohl said the purpose of the demonstration is to get the school board's attention.
"What we're hoping is to make the school board aware that the parents and students are willing to help out in any way possible," he said. "School districts all through the area are having a tough time, but to lose all of our extra-curricular activities would devastate the community."
Strohl said the hope is to convince the board that the elimination of athletic programs and extra-curricular activities isn't the way to go.
"We do understand there is a budget crunch, and we're trying to make them aware that we're willing to work with them in any possible way because we could be basically a school district with nothing for the kids to do outside of a standard school curriculum," he said. "We all feel that could be a tragedy, because there are a lot of kids that participate in sports and after school activities, and it's something we don't want to see go."
Strohl said those who plan to participate in the demonstration should meet in the borough park by 4:30 p.m. Monday.
"We want to show the true face of who exactly is being affected by this," he said. "It's not about me or any other parent; it's about the kids."