Residents in the Lake School District can certainly recall the Lake school levy
fiasco a few years back.
After several failed attempts to pass a school levy, voters finally approved a 6.75-mill, five-year operating levy in August 2006. The vote was close even while passing, with 1,949 voters supporting the levy and 1,580 voters giving their "no" vote.
The operating levy raises an additional $1.4 million a year for the district, which had gone through a string of levy defeats going back to August 2004.
Dave Shaffer, a 1982 Lake graduate who has been the high school's director of athletics since 1999, watched levy after levy fail. In 2005, the school board cut extracurricular activities that were eventually funded through a private volunteer group, but with limited athletic teams.
"We scaled back in some of our programs," said Shaffer, who was an assistant athletic director at Lake from 1989-99. "We offered fewer junior high teams and we reduced our assistant coaching staffs. We lost approximately 150 kids district-wide who transferred out, which probably equates to a graduating class. That is hard to handle, and it was difficult.
"We did the best with what we had. We tried to promote the school levy. I think it passed on about the 10th attempt. (Enrollment) numbers were low and we had activity fees that were an additional burden on families. We struggled through those times."
Lake students in grades 9-12 were allowed to transfer to other schools as levy after levy failed. Elementary and middle school students who lived in the Lake district could open enroll to a neighboring school district before their freshman year.
"We had kids (transferring) to Oak Harbor, Eastwood, Northwood, Genoa, Rossford, Cardinal Stritch, St. John's, Central Catholic, Toledo Christian," Shaffer said. "When those kids left, obviously those were some of your good athletes and some of your good students."
It wasn't just athletes who transferred to other schools. Lake students who were involved in clubs, musical programs and other school activities also enrolled at other area schools.
"With decreased numbers, when you have fewer numbers to compete — for example, when you only have an eighth grade team and not a seventh and eighth grade team — you're going to lose some kids and that's a year that's lost playing in that sport," Shaffer said. "Those years are supposed to be your growing program toward your varsity level.
"If those kids aren't having opportunities to play (at Lake), that all filters to your varsity program. It affects kids at the lower levels in preparing for varsity competition who had fewer opportunites to compete."
A few years ago, Lake instituted an "activity fee" for athletes that is used to offset the cost of extracurricular activities, Shaffer said.
If an athlete plays one sport, the activity fee is $70. If he or she plays a second sport, the cost is $60. Playing a third sport costs $50.
"If you qualify for the federal free or reduced lunch program, then your fees are also waived or reduced by 50 percent," Shaffer said. "Back in 2005, those fees were $150 for the first sport, $125 for the second and $100 for the third. That just helps offset those costs for extra curriculars."
Lake's athletic programs struggled for a couple years during the levy issues, but they are bouncing back. Some of Lake's varsity sports are taking off, such as girls and boys soccer, volleyball, football and girls basketball.
"We had 172 athletes participate in high school in fall 2009," Shaffer said. "We had 148 athletes last year. We had 19 seniors on the fall all-academic team this year versus 14 last year. We had 50 All-Suburban Lakes League honors versus 42 last year. Sixteen school records were broken this fall as opposed to 12 last fall.
"We had three SLL players of the year this fall, a league championship in girls soccer and we had three teams (volleyball, golf, girls soccer) participate in district tournaments. We had two teams in the regional level (boys cross country, girls soccer) and we had an individual run in the state cross country meet (Zack Powell, who took 23rd in Division II)."
Shaffer added that Lake's athletic programs are headed in the right direction "because of the athletes' efforts in the offseason."
"We have a great group of kids coming through," he said. "Our girls have been phenomenal and our boys are headed in a very positive direction in many of our boys programs. We have some great (coaches) here right now and we have a great support staff of volunteers who help with our programs.
"I thoroughly enjoyed the fall and the success we had. To see the ups and downs, it's great that we're headed back in that direction again and I see more great things coming."