Last month’s snow storms stopped more than traffic. The storms stopped 17 musicians from Pioneer Ridge Middle School, Wheatridge Middle School and Gardner Edgerton High School from traveling to Wichita for a music enrichment event.
The storm did not impede nine GEHS wrestlers, set to depart the same day, from competing in the state wrestling meet in Wichita, however.
“This needs to be addressed for the good of all students,” Eric Schultz, Gardner, told school board members at a meeting on March 11.
The two sets of students were to travel separately to Wichita on Feb. 18, but by midday on Feb. 17, weather reports warned of incoming dangerous conditions. It was the first of two snow storms that shuttered schools and many businesses for several days last month.
Schultz said the district made the decision to cancel all travel plans for Thursday, Feb. 18, but officials allowed the wrestlers to departearly ahead of the storm.
“The musicians were not afforded the opportunity to go earlier,” hesaid. “…There is need for consistent policy.”
In phone calls with staff, including high school principal Tim Brady, Schulz said he was given several reasons for the discrepancy.
First, officials told Schultz the district was a member of the Kansas State High School Athletic Association, the group responsible for hosting the state wrestling meet. The district is not a member of the KSMEA, the organization hosting the concert and music event.
Second, he said he was told the musicians had already done what they’d set out to do. Music students were selected for the event, which included a concert and learning opportunities with other accomplished music professionals, after an audition. The event itself, he was told, was learning enrichment and not competition. Meanwhile, the wrestlers were competing for team and individual titles.
Finally, Schultz said he was told that logistically, it was easier to arrange travel for the wrestlers since they were all high school students.
The district must be satisfied with patrons thinking athletics are more important than other endeavors, he said.
“We owe it to our students to encourage them equally,” Schultz told the board.
Ron Ragan, board president, said the board has a history supporting all extra curricular groups.
“This board brought orchestra into this district,” Ragan said.
Superintendent Bill Gilhaus told Schulz that he would have liked to receive his comments earlier so Brady had a chance to respond, and Schultz apologized.
Christy Ziegler, executive director of educational services, said one reason one group may have been allowed to travel is that KSMEA had made arrangements to push some activities back a few hours.
“When the decision was made to send the wrestlers, no such plans had been made,” Ziegler said.
Schultz said the district needs to draft or enforce a consistent policy.
“Wednesday was the time to travel,” Schutlz said. “We made a decision to send one group and not the other.”