ROCKLAND, Maine — The Regional School Unit 13 Board voted unanimously Thursday night to add girls lacrosse as a varsity sport for the next school year.
The vote came as the board faces at least a $1.5 million budget gap that the superintendent proposes to bridge by cutting teaching jobs and hiking property taxes by more than $1 million to the six communities in the district.
“This is an absolutely wonderful program but we have $1.5 million in cuts to find,” said board member Arvilla Collins of Thomaston. “I really have a hard time with this.”
The unanimous vote to add the sport for Oceanside High School came after a condition was added that the athletic director find the money for the program within the existing districtwide athletic budget of slightly less than $50,000.
Angela Vachon of St. George, a parent who has coached the team during its past two years as a club sport, spoke before the board at the start of the meeting, urging directors to both make it a varsity sport and to provide some financial support.
Vachon said when the two neighboring school districts — school administrative districts 5 and 50 — formed the new regional school district in 2009 there were statements that the consolidation would provide additional opportunities for students. She said failure to support the lacrosse team would mean false promises were made.
Students who have played lacrosse for the past two years have given up an opportunity to earn varsity letters, Vachon said, citing the commitment of the players.
Board Chairwoman Esther “Tess” Kilgour pointed out that St. George is working at withdrawing from RSU 13 and asked Vachon whether she would remain as coach if the town withdrew. Vachon said she would stay on as coach.
Athletic Director James Leonard said that issue should not be a concern since there are other people in the area who could coach.
He said that he can find the approximately $2,100 needed to pay for the program next year. That will not include new uniforms nor a coaching stipend. Vachon has not been paid as coach.
Board member Darryl Sanborn of Thomaston said people could send in money to the district and earmark it for the new lacrosse team.
There are 22 members on the team this year and Vachon said she expected it would be 25 next year.
The vote came on the same evening that the board voted 9-3 to postpone the merger of the district’s two middle schools, even though its superintendent warned that this would forego an estimated $500,000 in savings next year and make a difficult budget situation even more difficult.
RSU 13 includes Rockland, Thomaston, St. George, Owls Head, South Thomaston and Cushing.
High school lacrosse in Maine is played during the spring season. There are 39 high school teams in Maine, with 12 in Eastern Maine Class A, eight in East B, 12 in West A and seven in West B.