Parents of students on the the fencing teams asked the Board of Education to consider providing funding for the sport in the 2012-13 school budget.
Currently in its second year, the sport is now funded entirely by parents at a cost of $450 per student, including equipment rentals. Participants are waived the $100 activities fee, but if they participate in any other student activity they must pay the fee.
In its first year, the sport had a combined roster of 33 boys and girls. This year the roster has grown to 44 participants. Jill Perrin, whose son J.C. fences on the team, said they expect the team to grow to 60 athletes next year.
Theresa Burns, who has two boys on the team, said seven new participants this year—one sophomore, one senior and five juniors—have never fenced before.
"It's amazing to have a sport that students can pick up at any time," she said.
Peter Simon said his daughter refused to go on a family vacation to the Philippines unless she could fence while she was there.
"She became very passionate about it," Simon said. "It introduces you to a different class of people, people you wouldn't otherwise talk to."
One after one, parents extolled the virtues of the sport. They said the sport provides a place for students who might not be able to participate in other sports, specifically citing ADHD and twisted legs, and to athletes who play fall and spring sports but not other winter sports. They said fencing helps students develop muscle tone and mental discipline, and gives students the chance to be on a varsity team as early as their freshman year.
Principal Darren Groh also gave his support to the fencing team. He said the team was giving a place to "a cadre of students who weren't going to participate in another team." Through this and other sports, he said, "students are able to get an experience that we can't provide them between 7:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m."
Board Member Jill Weber also cited her own experience attending a fencing match where she witnessed the enthusiasm and support the students had for the sport and for each other. She also cited Anna Kalinsky, a Chatham High graduate from 2011, who joined the fencing team as a senior and now fences at Bryn Mawr College.
Jennifer Cosgrove of the Chatham High Athletic Boosters said the boosters have given $17,000 for the fencing team in the first two years and asked the board to help support the team in the upcoming budget.
After asking jokingly what the cut-off age was for the team, Board President Tom Belding asked Matthew Gilfillan to look into whether the budget can offer support for the team in the upcoming year. Gilfillan, who is head of the Finance Committee, said the budget process is just beginning for the upcoming school year.