Most Connecticut schools have access to a track when they practice. The Academy of Science and Innovation, a CREC magnet school in New Britain, doesn’t.
“The middle schools help me work my way up to the states,” said Lacey Dargenio, an eighth grader at the school. “If I can’t do what they do, how can I ever get up there? I’m trying to get a scholarship so that I can pay for college.”
But school funding problems are getting in her way. She practices on grass, but that hurts her in prepping for big meets.
To save money, the school cut two days of practice from each week.
Last week, Dynergy, a Houston-based power company, made a $100,000 donation to the Capitol Region Education Council (CREC). It is enough to save sports programs for the region’s five middle schools, but CREC said it still won’t be enough to make the sports programs whole.
Greg Person, Dargenio’s coach, said that dwindling practice time, along with a lack of facilities, makes it harder for the school to be competitive.
“We do not have a long jump pit,” Person said. “We have the high jump materials, but we really have to be pretty innovative when it comes to practicing the different events. When we go to the meets, for some of the kids, it’s their first experience actually running on a track or actually jumping into the long jump pit.”
The new outside funding won’t mean a new track at Innovation, but it will cover half the cost of uniforms, staff, transportation, and more for the whole district. Each school will have to come up with the rest.
Jonathan Winer is the athletic director of CREC middle and high schools. He said the funding that CREC gets from the state is flat, and that makes it a challenge to keep programming going.
“It’s really hard for them to function and to meet the needs of the kids that are coming from New Britain, Hartford, Enfield, or wherever, when the funding is not even being increased for the issue of inflation,” Winer said.
Winer said that without help from local parks and recreation departments, his kids wouldn’t have a place to play. Thanks to this one donation, the programs will survive for now.