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Insurance stalls Frontier programs

Two community-based youth sports organizations representing nearly 2,000 children who depend on Frontier school facilities to practice and hold their games have not been able to use the schools this fall because the district recently demanded more insurance coverage.

The groups -- the Carnegie-Scranton Recreation Association and Hamburg Little Cagers Basketball, serving youngsters ages 4 to 15 -- are fuming, and took their arguments to the Frontier School Board this week.

"Parents are mad. Their kids have nowhere to go because of this decision," Bob Fischer, president of the Carnegie-Scranton Recreation Association, told the board this week. "These girls [cheerleaders] were thrown out on the street with nowhere to go. We had the gym space, and it was ripped from them."

The cheerleaders have been practicing outside at the Carnegie playground, and as the weather gets colder, they need indoor facilities to prepare for tournaments. Fischer said it could cost probably $12,000 a year in insurance costs to get kids back into Frontier's gyms. He said he has had no choice but to scout around to try to find space for the cheerleaders and other sports teams.

"A decision of this magnitude should have had a year's notice. It's a major blow to the community," said Fischer, noting that on average, families pay $80 per child in the association, and would no doubt struggle to come up with upward of $200 per child to cover the increased insurance costs.

Fischer and Josh Haeick, who helps coordinate the Hambug Little Cagers Basketball, appealed to the board to do something. Both complained of the late and unexpected notice from the district, changing the liability coverage to $5 million, and even $8 million in some instances for larger groups, up from the previous $1 million umbrella.

A resolution of sorts may be in the works, though district officials Thursday offered few details.

"We are cautiously optimistic that an amicable solution can be worked out that meets the interests of both parties," board member Michael Comerford said. "The board wants to work closely with these groups. We'd much prefer the kids practice after hours in our schools, rather than on the street corner."

The district seems to be backing off of its new policy somewhat.

Superintendent Ronald G. DeCarli said the district wants the children off the streets and the district will be willing to accept the coverage the youth organizations have previously used for the current school year.

"We will encourage organizations to up their liability," he said. "But organizations can continue to use the facilities. We don't want this to become a burden for the kids this year."

e-mail: krobinson@buffnews.com

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