Wyandanch High School administrators said Monday the district is $100,000 short of raising the money needed to operate its sports programs, jeopardizing the start of the school's football, soccer and volleyball seasons.
Practices for those fall sports are underway at high schools across Long Island, with games scheduled to begin in only a few weeks. At Wyandanch, administrators have been forced to limit the players to informal conditioning drills.
Wyandanch acting Superintendent Gina Talbert said Monday, “We were advised through our own counsel” to not let the fall sports teams begin practicing until the district had all of the $350,000 needed to fund the school year’s sports teams.
“We’re still a ways away,” high school Principal Paul Sibblies said.
Funding for Wyandanch’s sports programs was cut in the $69 million contingency budget the district adopted in June after voters failed to pass two budget proposals that would have raised taxes by 40 percent and 20 percent, respectively.
A summer-long fundraising effort led by Sibblies raised $101,000 in private donations as of Monday, including a check for $40,000 that arrived during the weekend from someone whom Sibblies said requested to remain anonymous.
The school was given a $150,000 grant from the Suffolk Police Department last week. Administrators said Monday that money is not available to the school yet.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, who announced the grant at a news conference last week, called for an emergency waiver committee meeting to expedite the funding. Bellone spokesman Jason Elan said the waiver was approved on Monday and now the county law department will expedite a funding arrangment contract. It is not known how long that will take.
Wyandanch would still be about $100,000 short of the amount administrators said is needed to underwrite the same sports offerings as a year ago. So the school and the student-athletes remain in a holding pattern.
“I’m still optimistic,” Sibblies said. “There have been many good people who have reached out wanting to support us in that endeavor. Some things take a little time.”
Talbert said she hopes to have the money by the end of the week so the football team does not have to forfeit its season opener Sept. 13 at Greenport High School. State rules say football players need to have completed 10 practices to be eligible to play a game.
The latest Wyandanch’s football team can begin practicing to meet the minimum requirement is Labor Day.
Talbert said the district is committed to raising the money, even if it means starting the season a little late.
“We’re in this thing,” Talbert said. “If our players need to forfeit our first game, there are other games remaining. We’re in this until it happens.
"We believe the tide will turn and these kids will have their season.”