CLARK, NJ – The Clark Board of Education put an end to much speculation Monday night by announcing that the freshman baseball, basketball and football programs at Arthur L. Johnson High School would be eliminated during the 2017-2018 school year. All varsity teams are safe for the upcoming year.

Cuts to ALJ’s athletic programs have been a hot topic at the last two Board of Education meetings, with rumors of various sports being eliminated. Parents and students alike spoke at each of the meetings hoping to save the athletic programs.

“At this point in time, we believe that this decision was the best of the options that we were looking at. Just to be completely transparent, there were no really good options,” said board member Robert Smorol. “It was just selecting an option that we all believed would cause the least amount of pain.”

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While the freshman teams are no longer active, freshman athletes are eligible to try out for the JV teams, according to Smorol. Along with the three freshman programs, there was a reduction in coaching staff.

The remaining athletic programs may have some schedule modifications to help with the budget restraints. “Sports that can … may have a scrimmage eliminated, may have a regular season game eliminated, or one of each,” said Smorol. “Mr. Kalikas is going to work through that.”

The district is still struggling to close a budget deficit of nearly $2 million.

“This has been a very difficult year because of our financial restraints, and it’s been very difficult for the tax payers of Clark,” said board member Tom Lewis. “Getting such limited state aid is making our situation very, very difficult at this point.”

“We don’t necessarily think we are out of the woods,” said Smorol.  “The upcoming year looks like it may be another difficult year for us financially.”