By Tiffany Tan/VTDigger
Rutland City school officials say it could cost about $184,000 to change the mascot on athletic team uniforms, sporting equipment and buildings and other structures.
When that work will start, and how many years it will take, is still being discussed.
School Superintendent Bill Olsen delivered the cost estimate last week to a committee establishing a timeline for the mascot transition and devising a plan to pay for it. The committee was formed in September, once the school board accepted an attorney’s opinion that the board’s earlier vote to change the school mascot from “Raiders” to “Ravens” had been valid.
The board voted to retire “Raiders” and its arrowhead logo in October 2020 after a group of students, staff and alumni expressed concerns about racism in the mascot’s origins.
The biggest expense in the mascot change — $159,000 — would be buying new team uniforms, according to the superintendent’s memo. Olsen listed 13 sporting programs involved; uniforms that don’t use the Raider name or logo wouldn’t be affected.
The estimate is $10,300 for updating scoreboards and signs at various sporting venues, while $14,300 would go toward equipment at the schools’ main gymnasium, such as the scorer’s table, cheerleading “run-through” and basketball team’s chairs.
The old moniker on the floor of that main gymnasium, Keefe Gym, was replaced with “Rutland” earlier this month for a sum of $3,600.
“Be aware that there might still be areas that come to our attention that were previously unnoticed,” Olsen said in the memo.
At its first meeting on Oct. 20, the ad hoc committee of the whole discussed the possibility of either doing the transition all at once or over a period of three to five years, according to minutes of the meeting.
Any member of the school board can join the committee. During its first meeting, six of the 13 board members participated.
School administrators had suggested a transition over three years. Olsen wrote that schedule would enable the district “to avoid supply chain challenges,” which the U.S. is facing because of the coronavirus pandemic.
In an interview, Olsen said the uniforms could be replaced based on the most urgent need. “Football, for instance,” he said, “they go through uniforms very quickly just because of the wear and tear.”
The estimated cost for the mascot change does not yet include the price of designing a new logo. The design work will start only after the transition committee sets up a timeline, Olsen said.
He also said some of the estimated costs could be lower than expected.
At its meeting last week, the committee talked about potential sources of funding, such as donations, fundraisers and the Rutland High School Booster Club. Olsen said earlier that the school budget has no direct line item for funding the mascot change.
School board member Alison Notte, who chairs the committee, told VTDigger she expects the school district to primarily fund the transition. She wants to look into whether the money can come from its contingency fund. “We did use some of it last year,” she said, “and we have not used any of it this year.”
Notte, a strong advocate for the mascot change, said she personally favors completing the transition within one year. “While it would be a large lump sum now, we would not be expending something for several years from now,” she said.
When asked, board Chair Hurley Cavacas Jr. said there could be an increase in the 2022-23 school budget to fund the mascot change. As for the timing, Cavacas said he believes the change needs to be gradual because of the money involved.
Whatever proposals the transition committee develops will need approval from the school board’s 11 voting members (two student members don’t have voting power). Because of the board’s work on the 2022-23 budget, Cavacas said he is not sure when the board would have the opportunity to discuss the committee proposals.
“We’ve got some pretty heavy agendas coming up with budgets in the coming months,” he said. “We only have two months to do that.”