Cunha Intermediate School and its Boosters are working to keep the school’s athletics program alive in light of budget cuts that will slash the entirety of district funding for Cunha’s sports next school year.

Prior to its budget cuts, Cabrillo Unified School District provided $100,000 for the intermediate school’s athletics department, which comprised 90 percent of its sports budget, while the school’s Boosters’ program filled in the other 10 percent. As part of the district’s $2.6 million budget cut, district funding for Cunha athletics will be eliminated.

“We suddenly have a big hole to fill,” Cunha Principal James Barnes said. “We’re going to have a sports program next year. I’m just figuring out the nuts and bolts of how to do it.”

Barnes and Cabrillo Superintendent Sean McPhetridge said they are looking to work with a third-party community partner to take on the management, facilitation and operational aspects of school sports.

McPhetridge said it is typical for middle schools across San Mateo County and California to rely on local groups to run sports, such as parks and recreation departments or Boys and Girls Clubs.

“What we have at Cunha is a Cadillac program,” McPhetridge said. “The reality is that middle school athletics is not standard.”

Cunha Boosters President John Holm said that while the district has been transparent about cuts, he did not anticipate the heavy slash Cunha athletics received.

“Financially, it’s a huge hit,” Holm said. “The immediate impact is that we may have to turn away kids who are genuinely interested in playing sports.”

Holm said that he has plans to revamp the Boosters’ annual spaghetti dinner fundraiser and is considering increasing the optional $100-per-team donation suggestion to make up the funding gap. But ultimately, Holm said, Boosters funding alone is not a sustainable solution. He said the Cunha athletics department may have to temporarily cut teams that have lower student interest.

“We have to make cuts somewhere,” Holm said.

Barnes said that in addition to reaching out to third party “umbrella” organizations, he plans to ask Cunha staff and Boosters, both at the high school and intermediate school, to help raise money.

“Our Boosters, the high school Boosters and our administration are all talking,” Barnes said. “(The high school Boosters) have a lot of expertise, so we’re partnering with them to help build and maintain our Boosters and our parent volunteers so that we can prepare a big program here.”

Half Moon Bay High School Cougar Boosters President Kris Hammerstrom said he hopes his Boosters organization can play a supportive role — through mentorship, development and efforts to accelerate volunteerism and fundraising — as the cuts to funding for high school sports, at 25 percent, are less severe.

“We don’t want to turn into a ‘pay to play,’” Holm said. “If a student-athlete wants to play, we are going to do everything within our power to make sure they have that chance.”

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