Parents say that their children’s pleas have fallen on deaf ears after the Half Hollow Hills Board of Education did not respond to more than 30 young gymnasts who begged school officials to allow their program to remain in the district last month.
After 40 years of Hills Gymnastics, a non-profit athletic program held at , the Board of Education told Director Marissa Wharry in that the equipment could longer be stored in the gym because of an insurance liability. In a , students and graduates of Hills Gymnastics spoke at the Board of Education meeting in October, talking about the importance of the workshop in their lives and asked the board to help come to a compromise that would fall within the insurance guidelines.
More than two weeks later, neither parents nor students, have received a response.
“I think it was a mixture of hurt, disappointment and betrayal that our school system would oust such an amazing program and not be willing to respond or work with us,” Linda Matthies, a mother of two daughters in the workshop, said.
The board originally offered to keep the items in an outdoor bin, but would require the girls, some as young as 4 years of age, to move the heavy mats and beams in and out of the gym each night. It would also subject the equipment to rust and mold, Wharry said.
Hills Gymnastics is not an official school activity, but since the district does not have a junior varsity team, it is the main stepping-stone the student gymnasts employ so that they are able to compete on the high school level.
Maggie Springall, whose children participate in the program, presented several options to the board that might help to lessen the insurance liability such as a sign telling students not to climb on the mats or using a space divider, which is used in other schools. The board did not respond to her suggestions.
“We never heard back from the school district - none of the parents, nobody. I find it very disheartening. I feel like they were just hoping we would go away,” Wharry said.
With competition season starting up and no place to practice within the school district, Hills Gymnastics has moved to a new location on Brook Avenue in Deer Park.
“It’s very, very tiny and barely fits the equipment, but we’ll make it fit because it’s a place and at a reasonable price,” Wharry said.
Since the program is non-profit, the affordability was a big draw for families who otherwise could not afford to put their children into what is typically a costly sport.
The price of the program will slightly increase since the workshop must now rent the space to practice. Wharry said that she and her daughter, who helps run the program, have not taken a salary yet to help alleviate the cost burden.
“This is a sacrifice I’m willing to make because it’s about them,” Wharry said.
The workshop has also been cut down from two lessons to one since it is sharing the space.
“It’s shameful that they can get away with not even responding,” Wharry said. “To not respond to the parents makes me feel like that’s how they’re getting away with it.”