CHEYENNE – Initially, it was uncertainty. Reality sank in when their seasons were put on hold.
Now, their pocketbooks have become lighter.
Laramie County School District 1 officials this week announced the decision to pay spring sports coaches just one-sixth of the “standard reimbursement” they were owed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic that has a stranglehold on the country and the world.
“As you know, Laramie County School District 1 has been adjusting and making some very difficult decisions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” LCSD1 human resources executive assistant Brook Phillips wrote in an email that was sent out to spring sports coaches this week. “With the closure of our schools and the move to remote learning after the closure, many of our spring activities and athletic practices and events have been shortened, or even canceled.
“Accordingly, we have adjusted your spring coaching stipend to 1/6th of the standard reimbursement. If you are paid semi-monthly, you already received your stipend on March 15th. If you are paid monthly, your stipend is included in the March 26 (normally March 31) payroll.”
Spring sports officially started practice March 9, but that was suspended days later because of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The decision to adjust coaches’ stipends was based, in part, on spring sports seasons having already started and uncertainty about if or when they will resume, LCSD1 Superintendent Boyd Brown told WyoSports.
“We’ve paid part of the stipend for those coaches,” he said. “At this time, we’re waiting to see what happens with the Wyoming High School Activities Association, and whether there’s going to be any extensions and those type of things before we make a decision on where we’re going to move forward with everything.”
If spring sports seasons are extended, Brown said, coaches would receive the rest of their stipend – an allotment of funds that differs between each coach depending on what sport they coach, along with if they “were halfway through a season or were just barely starting a season,” Brown added.
So, why make the decision now?
“So that we can make the decision to pay them later on if we have to extend (the seasons),” Brown said, adding that no decision has been made to pay out the rest of the stipends should the spring sports seasons be completely wiped out. He did say, however, that each coach would be paid in full if the spring sports seasons resume.
The money held from those stipends could be allotted elsewhere, Brown said, depending on the district’s needs.
“There may be some other things that we have to take care of because of the virus, and that would be something that we would use that for,” he said. “… if an emergency arose that we needed to use money for something else, we would possibly use it for something else.”
When the news broke, local coaches voiced their displeasure.
“It was just another slap in the face,” said one local coach, who spoke to WyoSports on the condition of anonymity. “They didn’t even tell us. … I was counting on that money to pay for (my son’s) braces. I can’t begin to tell you how frustrated I am right now, to the point where I just want to walk away.”
The funds were going to be put toward other things, such as house or car payments or a summer savings account, a second local coach said.
“Not having that extra income that you learn to count on is a tough situation,” the second coach added.
For others, the situation is “deeper.”
“I feel very undervalued,” a third local coach said. “This is an opportunity for the school district to say to their coaches, ‘Look, we know what you put in, the difference you make in the lives of the kids you coach beyond just the athletics side, and the influence that you have on them. And, right now, we know your season got started and, for nobody’s fault, of course, it got cut short, and we want to say we’ve got you covered and thank you.’
“But, instead, we feel like it’s, ‘Oh, you’re not going to coach two-thirds of the season or whatever, so we’re not going to pay you that two-thirds or that five-sixths.
“I do know that there is a hoard of people that are upset about it.”
The coronavirus has created drastic economic impacts for many around the country, including Wyoming, and Brown said he hopes the district will be able to pay out the rest of the stipends.
“You know, we’re paying for their ... what we have them contracted for for being teachers,” he said. “We know that it may be difficult for some of them at this point, but if we wind up having the seasons, we’ll be able to pay them the money at that time.”