Winston-Salem, NC -- High school football practice officially started Monday, and the certified athletic trainers that serve the Winston-Salem Forsyth County School System's 12 high schools were on the sidelines despite not having a new contract in place.
Back in 2010, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and Forsyth Medical Center signed on to supply trainers for each of the district's high schools. Both hospitals supplied six trainers, and each shelled out an estimated $500,000 for their salaries, training and equipment. The contract for those services expired in June, and as of Monday a new deal hadn't been finalized.
The stumbling block appears to be money. In this economy, the hospitals just can't foot the bill any more. The school system says it will probably reach a new agreement with the hospitals soon, but it will look very different.
In a letter of intent the superintendent wrote July 17, WSFCS asked each medical center to donate $250,000 to the district. The school system would pay another $100,000-$200,000 to cover the rest of the costs of keeping the trainers employed. Then, all 12 trainers would be offered jobs as school system employees at the same schools where they work now. After this school year, the medical centers would be financially free and clear, save for some free training and equipment they would provide. It would be up to the school system to fund all this in the future.
East Forsyth High School head football coach Todd Willert hopes a deal is hammered out soon, because he says the certified athletic trainers are crucial.
"To me, it's just as important as having coaches out here," Willert said. Taking them away would "be like saying 'don't have a head coach, don't have coordinators, don't have assistant coaches.'"
The school system and both hospitals said Monday they're confident they'll get a deal done, but they don't have a timeline. For now, the trainers are still showing up at all the practices, even without a new deal. And while the focus is on football this time of year, the certified athletic trainers work with all the athletes at a high school. Last year, there were more than 4,000 high school students playing sports in WSFCS.
WFMY News 2