South Portland middle school basketball teams get reprieve; not so for soccer

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The School Board on Monday unanimously decided to maintain separate seventh- and eighth-grade basketball teams at Memorial and Mahoney middle schools, but to move forward with combined soccer teams. 

The vote partially reverses a budget decision made because of shrinking funds and dwindling participation.

New Superintendent of Schools Ken Kunin recommended the reconsideration Aug. 24 after he reviewed the numbers. The cost to keep the basketball teams separate is approximately $16,500, Kunin said. 

“A review of the athletic budget shows that a combination of unfilled and/or unnecessary assistant coach positions, together with the savings on the officials line, should fund these changes,” he said. 

Kunin also reported Monday that the fall cheering coach position, which was supposed to have been cut from the budget several years ago, has continued to be funded by the district at a cost of about $3,400 a year.

The board, on Kunin’s recommendation, voted unanimously to officially reinstate the coaching position for this school year. 

Regarding boys and girls soccer at the middle schools, “while we heard summer soccer camp numbers were strong, it is too late to schedule for the additional teams,” Kunin said.

In an attempt to make up the difference and to give students ample playing time, he  suggested an extension of the season. 

In general,Kunin said, “our goal is to maximize participation at the middle school level; we know that students involved in sports, music and arts do better in school.” 

Resident Elizabeth Greely praised Kunin’s recommendation, but requested that keeping the soccer teams separate be reconsidered.

“While we’re hearing it’s too late to change, what’s too late? There (have) always been two teams (and) two schedules. There isn’t any change,” she said.  

School Board member Mary House echoed that sentiment. “I know timing is tight, (but) if there’s something we could do, I’d love to see us explore that.” 

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA

South Portland and Scarborough reporter for The Forecaster. Graduate of Western Kentucky University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Alex can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106.