Via Christi Rehabilitation Services will not renew its contract to provide athletic trainers to the Wichita school district's seven high schools, ending a relationship of nearly 20 years.
Under the current contract, which ends after next month's state championships in all spring sports, the district pays $200,000. Via Christi said its cost to provide trainers was around $380,000.
"When it came to time to review our contract for the coming year, we notified USD 259 that we could not continue to provide athletic training services at an amount equal to about half our actual cost in providing those services," Cindy LaFleur, vice president of Via Christi Rehabilitation Services, said in a statement. "District officials indicated that they are unable to pay the full cost, so we were unable to renew our contract beyond the current academic year."
In the early 1990s, Via Christi provided, for free, athletic trainers two days a week. In 1999, Via Christi ended that relationship, and the Wichita district paid $108,000 for full-time athletic trainers at six high schools. At the time, Heights had its own deal with Kansas Orthopaedic Center.
Via Christi currently has contracts with Maize, Maize South, Bishop Carroll and Wichita Collegiate.
While budget cuts are looming, City League athletic director Bill Faflick said he is unwilling to cut back on athletic trainers.
"The trainers provide a very valuable service to the student athletes in our school district," Faflick said. "A top priority for us is student-athlete safety. To not have certified athletic trainers available to work with our kids and to work with our coaches would compromise that ability."
Athletic trainers respond first to athletes' injuries during games and practices. They provide diagnoses, advise coaches on appropriate practice plans during hot weather, do CPR and first-aid training. Athletic trainers also work with coaches, parents and athletes on rehabilitation — whether ice and rest is sufficient or if the athlete needs to see a doctor.
"It's a daily evaluation that's free of charge to our kids," South football coach Cory Brack said. "For most of them, that could be all they can afford."
Faflick said the district sent out requests for proposals each year, as is required, since 1999, but only Via Christi responded.
Faflick has talked with other providers in the area and is open to other ideas, including hiring independent contractors or hiring athletic trainers as full-time employees.
"We're evaluating, is what we've been doing the best? Should we do it exactly the same?" Faflick said."... I hope we can use the same good people or the same quality of people that worked with Via Christi. They've worked very hard to take care of our kids."
Via Christi said that the equivalent of 6.3 full-time positions will be eliminated because of the contract not being renewed. Some may be offered jobs in other areas of Via Christi.