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Parkston considers adding gymnastics

PARKSTON -- The Parkston School District is considering adding gymnastics to the school's extracurricular options for next year.

Superintendent Shayne McIntosh said the request is being evaluated by the school board and will be examined further in the next month, with a decision likely in March.

"Cost is obviously a factor," McIntosh said. "You want to give kids all of the opportunities that you can, but it needs to be within what we're able to accomplish from a curriculum standpoint, too."

Whatever decision made will likely be a difficult one. In a recent meeting, the school board heard a request for an increase in career and technical education classes.

"We heard requests for both programs and that leaves you with decisions to make about what you're willing to put resources behind," McIntosh said.

Heather Prunty, of Parkston, is one of the parents who brought the gymnastics idea to the school board. She said it's a way to bring another positive extracurricular activity to the district, but it's hard to know exactly how things will play out with cost analysis ongoing.

"There's a lot to still be decided and determined," Prunty said. "That's nerve-wracking because we don't know what's going to happen, but in the end, we need to make the best decision for our kids whether we can add gymnastics or not."

Prunty has a seventh-grade daughter who participates in club gymnastics in Mitchell. To continue gymnastics at the high school level from Parkston, students would have to open-enroll to Mitchell High School, or the school could pursue a co-op agreement. Prunty has been told that Mitchell is not interested in co-oping with Parkston for gymnastics, but it was after talking with other moms who travel to Mitchell for youth gymnastics that Prunty and a few others decided to approach the Parkston School Board.

Her group of parent gymnastics supporters conducted an informal survey of students in sixth grade and above in Parkston, which showed that 22 students had at least some interest in participating. A similar survey showed that 19 Ethan students would be interested, she said.

There's no guarantee that Parkston would co-op with Ethan or any particular school. That's further down the line, according to Prunty. Parkston School Board President Mark Heisinger said there's still a lot to be decided on all fronts.

"We're certainly in the exploratory phase and it's too early to say what exactly will happen," Heisinger said.

If successful, Prunty said she expects the new program to fundraise heavily to cover most of the costs and to keep from burdening the school district with too many operating expenses.

Girls' gymnastics is currently offered at 13 Class AA schools, including Mitchell and six other ESD conference schools. At the Class A level, 14 schools offer the sport, with just Chamberlain and Wagner participating in The Daily Republic's print circulation area. A co-op between Yankton and Bon Homme participates at the Class AA level in gymnastics. Bon Homme Athletic Director Mike Duffek said four students participate in the co-op with Yankton.