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October 1, 2014

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EDUCATION:

School clubs, sports to feel funding pinch

Expensive trips for teams, band may be things of the past

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Keith Shimada / Special to the Home News

On the scoring table in the Centennial High School gymnasium during the Las Vegas Holiday Classic girls basketball tournament, sponsors advertise, helping the school’s sports program. The tournament is a fundraiser for the girls team.

Grown-ups aren’t the only ones feeling the pinch in the struggling economy — so are teenagers at local high schools who are on clubs or sports teams with shrinking budgets.

At Centennial High School, girls basketball coach Karen Weitz said times are tough even though her team went 28-4 last season.

“I think it’s hard on everyone right now,” said Weitz, who is in her 10th season as head coach of the Bulldogs. “A lot of the parents are struggling right now, so it’s not easy getting donations. We all just have to pull together and help each other out.”

A large portion of the team’s money each year is raised at one event — the Las Vegas Holiday Classic, an annual tournament hosted by Centennial that ran from Dec. 27 to Dec. 30.

The tournament brought in 20 basketball teams from as far away as Alaska and North Carolina. Weitz said a good turnout was expected this year, but next year’s tournament might shrink in size if the economic slowdown continues.

One of the tournament’s major donors is Platinum Hotel and Spa, which provides lodging for the visiting teams. Other donors throughout the season include auto dealers and other local businesses and parents.

The team needs funding throughout the year for equipment, uniforms and travel expenses.

“Larry Brown has been very helpful and he has two daughters who play for us,” Weitz said. “We also have parents who run their business ads in our program.”

Brown, a Las Vegas city councilman, is leaving the council to become a Clark County commissioner and will be sworn in Jan. 5. .

At Palo Verde High School, Principal Dan Phillips said the school’s clubs and sports teams haven’t felt a serious pinch yet — but concerns are growing as the weeks roll on.

Funding for big-ticket items such as field trips or $4,000 tubas, Phillips said, might not be available next year.

“We’re quite worried,” he said. “If this continues into next year, who knows? Right now, Palo Verde is in a fortunate position compared to some of the other schools in the district, but we’re still very early into this economic downturn.”

Terry Hill, who is in his fourth year as orchestra director at Centennial High School, said he is working with about 30 percent of the budget he had at his disposal two years ago due to budget cuts.

A 40-year veteran of music instruction, Hill directs a group of 65 student musicians and tries to organize educational field trips each year.

“Last year, we were able to go to Carnegie Hall, and the year before that it was London,” Hill said. “This year, it’s difficult for us to go to Disneyland. There has been a big difference. Our fundraisers haven’t been as successful as in years past.”

Nevertheless, his students are pressing forward by going door-to-door and selling items such as candy bars and cookie dough to raise funds. Some of the parents have also been selling candy while at work.

The Disneyland trip is still slated for April or May, although it might be an abbreviated journey, Hill said.

“Instead of an educational experience which would take a couple of days, maybe we’ll just do a one-day trip and let the kids have fun,” he said.

Despite a smaller budget to work with, Weitz said her 11 basketball players continue to work hard.

“They understand that times are tough,” she said. “If we’re on the road looking for food, sometimes they crack jokes and say, ‘Coach is going to order off the dollar menu.’”

Jeff O’Brien can be reached at 990-8957 or [email protected].

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