SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Two weeks ago, dozens of gymnasts, their families and supporters, went before the school board to express concerns about the sport being cut from the Sioux Falls school district’s budget.
In next year’s proposed budget it says “Elimination of gymnastics removes the opportunity for approximately 40 high school and middle school students to participate in gymnastics.”
When it comes to powerlifting it says eliminating the activity from the budget would require it to be paid for through “the high school trust and agency accounts or be eliminated.”
In an email from a Sioux Falls School District public relations member just before KELOLAND News at 10 Monday night, they clarified more about the budget – specifically powerlifting:
“There is no recommendation to eliminate powerlifting. In previous years, it was paid for through fundraise dollars. Last year, it was paid for out of the COVID relief money. The recommendation for this next year is that it go back to being paid for by fundraising. The recommendation for powerlifting is NOT the same as the recommendation for gymnastics,” the email wrote.
Below is the original story as it aired in KELOLAND News at 10 Monday night just minutes after we received clarification:
For three-sport athlete Bree Koepke, taking away gymnastics and powerlifting would leave a big void.
“I’m going to be a senior next year, and so that’s taking away my last year of sports for two sports – gymnastics and powerlifting now. Which just would be horrible,” Koepke said.
Koepke has been doing gymnastics for over 10 years in both club and high school. The last two years have been at Jefferson High School.
“It would just not be as much fun just going back to club. I’ve really fallen in love with high school gymnastics, and going back just won’t feel the same,” she said.
Koepke wants the school board to think about more than just the number of athletes in the sport.
“But think about how this affects the gymnasts and future gymnasts,” she said.
“It’s just taking away opportunities, that’s what I would say, to a lot of young girls who don’t get the opportunity to do club,” Aubrey Whittington said.
Aubrey Whittington is also a gymnast and power lifter. She says powerlifting at Jefferson has grown.
“We almost doubled from last year. Guys and girls. And then, we have our own equipment. Like we use the belts from school, we use our own wrist straps or own belts if we have or share them, so it was just confusing why they’d take that away,” she said.
These student athletes wish there was more communication from the school district about the fate of the sports, because they don’t feel like there has been any.
“I wish there were sole meetings where we could just like talk about it and how much it means to us, and maybe just different ways that we can work around the budget and stuff,” Whittington said.
“I want it to be told to my face and not just be heard as a rumor. I want them to take us seriously. Although we’re teenagers, it doesn’t mean taking away our sport doesn’t affect us,” Koepke said.