Student athletes in the Whitehall City Schools will face more stringent requirements in regard to both attendance and academics starting with the 2007-08 school year.
On Aug. 9 the Whitehall Board of Education voted 4-1 to make revisions to the 2007-08 athletic handbook for parents and athletes. After much discussion, the board decided to adopt the following changes:
•Student athletes who have an unexcused absence will receive a warning on the first and second occurrences. On the third occurrence, they will miss an entire game, and on the fourth occurrence they will miss the rest of the season.
•Student athletes who have an unexcused tardy for the first class of the student’s day will face the same punishment as all other students as listed in the student handbook for the first through fourth occurrence. On the fifth occurrence, they will miss an entire game, and on the sixth occurrence they will miss the rest of the season.
Student athletes will also face more rigorous academic requirements. To participate in athletics, students in seventh, eighth or ninth grades must have a 2.0 cumulative grade point average or a 1.5 grade point average in the previous grading period.
Freshmen must have a 2.0 grade point average or a 1.5 grade point average in the previous grading period; sophomores must have a 2.0 grade point average or a 1.75 grade point average in the previous grading period; and juniors and seniors must have a 2.0 cumulative grade point average or a 2.0 grade point average in the previous grading period.
Current athletes may start the 2007-08 season with a 1.5 grade point average, but they must meet the required grade point average for their level by the second nine week grading period.
Each student athlete may utilize one waiver for the minimum grade point average one time each at the middle school and high school level.
Walter Armes, president of the board, expressed reservations about passing the revised policy and cast the dissenting vote on its passage.
"We’ve had three meetings on this," he said. "I would like to suggest rather than us voting on this today that we refer this to a committee."
He suggested comprising the committee of administrators, teachers, coaches, parents and students, and proposed to "work on this with the data we’ve got, and return in the winter with a proposal."
Armes continued, "I just don’t feel comfortable, personally, with this and I don’t want to make bad policy."
He pointed out a large number of the district’s students will be affected.
"I realize we would like to push our kids, but sometimes athletics is all they have," he said. "I would just feel better if we had a broader group working on this."
Board member Carolyn McIntosh said it is time attendance is enforced, particularly at the high school level.
"They are being hurt because they are not in school and they don’t have a consequence," she said, noting if current attendance rules were being enforced, "We wouldn’t be here. At least this way we have a way to monitor it, encourage them and keep them on the right track."
She continued, "We don’t have a discipline policy. It depends on who you are and what’s going on."
Athletic Director Mike Ferguson said he feels the new policy unfairly targets athletes.
"Because they have chosen athletics, they will be punished twice," he said, referring to the individual school’s punishments for unexcused absences or tardiness. "It just kind of bothers me … you take more than 200 kids, and we want to set more and more rules on them even though they are doing more for the schools and the community than the other kids."
He countered, "When it comes to adding additional rules, they’re all applied to athletics."
Board member Ronda Howard responded, "Participating is a privilege – not a right … You have to start somewhere."
McIntosh suggested the board start with sports, tweak the policy and then apply it to all extra-curricular activities next year.
In other news, the board:
•Appointed Armes as the Whitehall City School delegate for the 2007 Ohio School Boards Association annual business meeting to be held Nov. 12. In the event he cannot serve, the board appointed Howard as the alternate.
•Agreed to make up calamity days by adding the required full school days to the end of the adopted school calendar.
•Agreed to pay $50,000 to the city of Whitehall as the school district’s share of the salary and equipment of a school resource officer.
The board will hold a special meeting to conduct building tours at 4:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 20. The next regular board meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13 at the administration office, 625 S. Yearling Road.