Winston-Salem, NC -- Funding for the groundbreaking program that put certified athletic trainers in all 12 of the Winston-Salem Forsyth County Schools system's high schools is in limbo after its first year.
An agreement between Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, Forsyth Medical Center and the school system expired June 1. The trainers took care of more than 4,000 athletes in every sport last year, which is above and beyond what the state requires.
The program was designed to be a national model, and the hospitals paid the estimated $1,000,000 cost for it in exchange for advertising and signage in the school system's stadiums and gyms.
Fall practices officially start in just six weeks, but the school system and the two medical centers haven't talked about whether this groundbreaking partnership will see a second year.
"There just haven't been [talks]," school system spokesman Theo Helm said, though he couldn't explain why there haven't been any conversations. "We've really enjoyed the services they've provided and we're hopeful we can figure out a way to work it out so we can continue the relationship with the medical centers."
The company that owns Forsyth Medical Center said in a statement it's "evaluating this and all programs" it runs due to the "weak economy." Baptist said "no final decisions have been made" about the program and that it would continue talks with the school system.
Neither hospital would let WFMY News 2 talk to any of the certified athletic trainers it employs. At least two have emailed county commissioners -- not to bash anyone involved -- but to raise awareness about the contract lapse in hopes everyone will figure out a solution, regardless of who foots the bill. One wrote she is "stunned" and "concerned" there's a chance the trainers could go away.
If the hospitals can't afford to pay for the program anymore, the school system has some work to do. Helm said it doesn't have a backup plan. County commissioner David Plyler said if the school system asked commissioners for an extra $1,000,000 or so to fund the program, they likely couldn't provide it.
WFMY News 2