BELMONT — The Shaker School Board last night directed Superintendent Maria Dreyer to hold official talks with Gilford Superintendent Kent Hemmingway about creating a joint football program for high school students in both districts.
The direction from the board came after the Friends of Belmont Football met with the board to tell them about the efforts that the group has been making to raise money for the program as well as the progress they have made so far in creating interest among Belmont Middle School and Belmont High School students in playing football at the high school level.
Gilford High School currently has a football team, while Belmont High does not.
Eric Shirley, one of the key figures in the two-year-old Friends of Belmont Football told the board that the group has so far raised about $10,000 for the program. He added that the group is also taking steps to become an officially recognized charity.
Shirley said he was confident that Belmont could provide between 10 and 15 high school students toward a co-operative Belmont-Gilford program.
Shirley said that a similar co-operative arrangement with Winnisquam High School in Tilton appeared unfeasible, largely, he said, because the Winnisquam athletic director is opposed to the idea.
Shirley said that he had met a couple of months ago with Hemingway to discuss the possibility of a Belmont-Gilford venture. He said during that meeting Hemingway said that such an undertaking would require that the Shaker District pay $15,000 a year toward the Gilford program in order for Belmont students to play. Shirley said the came away from the meeting feeling the Hemingway might be open to negotiating a lesser amount. He told the Shaker board that a fee of around $500 per Belmont team member seemed reasonable.
He further suggested that Belmont could enter into a two-year pilot program with Gilford under which Belmont High freshmen and sophomores would play only on the Gilford jayvee team and then become fully integrated with the Gilford program in three to four years.
The two schools have shared a varsity-level ice hockey program for a number of years.
"We are looking for a way for our kids to succeed," Shirley said. "We are here to see if we can get a plan forward."
Dreyer told the board that the arriving at an agreeable money figure was just one of the issues that would need to be worked out. For example, she noted that Gilford's position has been that Belmont's participation in the program would need to be officially funded by Shaker District, and as at this time there is no line item in the School Budget for a high school football program.
Dreyer said she would come back to the Shaker Board with recommendations after she has a chance to meet with Hemingway.