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Softball team hits home run with school board

The Three Forks School Board unanimously approved the addition of a high school girls' softball team for the 2022 fall season at its June 21 meeting, after the recreational softball team approached the board with their request in May.

The Montana High School Association board must consider the proposed change before the high school can officially offer it to students.

The school board approved the addition of a softball team with the understanding that the recreational team would supply funding for the start up and the first three years. Costs include building a field, purchasing equipment, coach stipends, fuel for bus trips and bus driver pay. Players may have to purchase their own helmets to lower costs; however, those addressing the school board explained that this would benefit the players in terms of health and having their own equipment.

For the first season, the team hopes to raise $75,000 to cover these first season costs. The team expects $20,000 in expenses for the consecutive seasons. So far, the team has gathered $32,000 for the program with three weeks of fundraising.

Additionally, if the team can't obtain property for a new field, the high school team would use the recreational team's current field; however, the recreational team has $17,000 to put toward construction of the new field and expects to receive approval for use of a new property by the beginning of July. Volunteers from the recreational team plan to donate their time to maintain the fields to help lower costs.

If the team is unable to collect the necessary funds for the first three years, the school board will have to reassess the addition of the sport. "Anytime a district ... can't fund something, they have to look at what has to go. What has to be cut?" District Superintendent Rhonda Uthlaut said during the meeting. "That's a worst case scenario." Those addressing the school board said they were confident in their ability to raise the money needed.

After the first three years of the program, it will be the district's responsibility to provide funding for the team. "We know that getting kids engaged is important," Uthlaut said, explaining that those who participate in activities have better attendance and higher grades.

Currently the team is hosting raffles for a quarter of a beef, a wood pellet grill and horse training.

The team will also operate a dunk tank during the Three Forks Rodeo festivities. Those unable to donate money are welcome to donate time and materials.