KALIDA - Efforts on the part of students and their parents to start a track program sponsored by the Kalida School District have met not so much a wall as a money pit. Citing statistics that 25 percent of high school students are interested in developing and participating in a track program at the school, several parents pressed their case to the school board last Wednesday.

"My opinion is that when you have 25 percent of the kids willing to participate, wanting this to come true, then maybe we need to take a big, in-depth look at this and see where it goes," Craig Schmenk told the board.

While apparently sympathetic, District Superintendent Don Horstman expressed a disinclination to establish a school district sponsored track program in Kalida.

"I coached track for six years and I'm not opposed to it," Horstman explained. "But the finances... this right now is not the time financially for us to be looking at that. We have information from six districts now and even the ones that have it will tell you that if they didn't have it, they would not start it now. Not because it's not good for kids, but because it's a huge drain financially on your athletic programs. "

He and the board then proposed that students and their parents interested in establishing a track program in Kalida consider adopting a "club sport" approach. A club sport, while sanctioned by the school district, is not operated by the school district which thereby avoids any financial burden. Instead, the parents and students involved foot the bill. It was acknowledged by both the parents and the board that this is an option the Kalida Athletic Boosters have already considered and that the boosters have tentatively offered as much as $5,000 to help defray the cost of equipment and uniforms.

While not dismissing the possibility of a club sport approach out of hand, Schmenk raised the issue of the district's pay-to- participate policy.

"I think we're the only community in Putnam County who has pay-to-play," he said. "We already pay for our kids to participate. We're also the only community in the county that doesn't have a track team."

In a subsequent interview, Horstman acknowledged that the district's across the board pay-to-participate policy is unique in the county, but said that it was just one aspect of a negotiated package of actions necessary to bring the district's finances into line. In addition to pay to participate, he said that financial concessions were made by the district's faculty and staff. As an example, he pointed to what are popularly known as "snow days."

"Our first three calamity days are furlough days," he said. "Teachers don't get paid for those days. I don't see how, bearing that in mind, I can go to them (the teachers) and tell them we're considering this."

Even so, the board has yet to hold an official vote, leaving the prospect of a district-sponsored track team up for continued debate.