SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — It was standing room only at the Sioux Falls School Board meeting Monday night as supporters of the district’s gymnastics program showed up in droves.
It was a story we first brought you last week…as word spread that the program could be cut due to mandatory decreases in the district’s budget. While it was not an agenda item at Monday’s meeting, a lot of people still came to show support.
Parents as well as current and former coaches and gymnasts filled the board meeting room.
Sophie DeGroot is an Edison Middle School seventh grader but competes on the Lincoln High School gymnastics team. She spoke in front of the board.
“Just to talk about why it’s worth saving gymnastics and why I love it so much,” DeGroot said.
The sport is DeGroot’s passion.
“I just want to be able to do it for the rest of my middle and high school career,” she said.
Les Coin, head coach of Lincoln and Washington High School’s teams, says this decision is being watched by other schools across the state.
“I’m sure you’re wondering why they all came across the state today to be here, because if we cut gymnastics in Sioux Falls, it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the state cuts gymnastics as well,” Coin said.
“This isn’t just fighting for gymnastics in Sioux Falls. It’s fighting for gymnastics in South Dakota. I’m just here to give the parent perspective. I’ve seen firsthand what high school gymnastics has done for my daughter,” Van Beek said.
Eric Van Beek has a seventh-grade daughter in gymnastics.
“She came into this program very shy, quiet girl, and has come out one year later, strong, confident and happy. And I’m not just, that’s not hyperbole like this program has been one of the best parts of her life,” Van Beek said.
Van Beek says there have not been any school district discussions or meetings with families about cutting the program.
“We know that there’s plans happening, but we aren’t in, you know, we haven’t been told anything. So let’s work together. Let’s find ways to make it so we don’t have to cut a sport that’s so important to so many young girls in this community,” Van Beek said.
For Lincoln High School junior Anna Leuning, she says it’s more than just gymnastics – it’s family.
“I just want the girls, the younger girls in the future generations to have this opportunity because it’s, like I said, more than gymnastics. It’s a friendship and a bond, and it’s something to prepare you into high school and you learn lessons even beyond gymnastics,” Leuning said.
The Sioux Falls School District did not provide an answer when asked directly about whether the gymnastics program would be cut as the board adopts a final budget, which is still in draft form.
You can see the full response from the school district below:
“The FY24 Budget is currently in draft form and will be presented at the work session on April 5,” Community Relations Coordinator DeeAnn Konrad said via email. “The work session is a time for board members to review all recommendations, ask questions, and make any suggestions for changes. The Board votes for tentative adoption April 10. Tentative adoption means changes can still be made before final adoption on July 10.”