Board members last week chose not to vote on whether to change the timing of middle school practices after receiving parents’ responses to a survey given at parent-teacher conferences in October — effectively leaving the controversial policy the same without putting individual officials’ stances on the record. The issue arose after some parents complained to the school board about students practicing during school hours.
The school board’s subsequent survey gave parents three options from which to choose, including leaving practice times during seventh hour; lengthening sports practices to 4 p.m.; and moving practices to before and/or after school. The results revealed that 79 parents chose the first option, 36 chose the second, and 60 chose the third, the school board reported.
Tori Fehling, whose seventh-grade daughter plays basketball, said she wasn’t happy with the board’s inaction, adding she isn’t a fan of practice during school hours.
“They’re not learning the fundamentals at this stage because there’s not enough time,” Fehling said. “I would like [student-athletes] to get that seventh hour back to do some type of other academics and have them have practice either after school or before school. That hour [of practice] is just not enough to keep the kids interested.”
Middle school students now choose between participating in a sport or taking an elective during the school day’s seventh hour, Bud Welch, middle school principal, said previously. Students can choose from science lab, band, guitar, newspaper, keyboarding and advanced robotics as a seventh hour elective, he said.
With above-average sports participation, Welch said his main concern with changing the practice schedule was losing participation because of parents not being able to pick students up, or drop students off before school. Fehling said that’s no concern to her.
“The parents all come together when things like this happen,” she said. “My husband and I both work, and even when we can’t get there for things after school, there’s someone willing to step up and help out. I don’t understand where [school administrators] are coming from. If [students] are in a sports activity, we still have games in the evenings and parents have to some way find a way to pick their child up.”
“It seems, from the girls’ point-of-view, they always lose a few girls after the seventh-grade year because there is a frustration among them because they’re always losing,” she said. “I know winning is not everything, but it is a competitive sport and to keep them interested they’re going to have to learn more than fundamentals.”
With middle school sports being competitive, Marie Gardner said the amount of participation shouldn’t be the deciding factor.
“[Welch] wants to talk about how important it is to have every student participate in sports,” Gardner, whose eighth-grade son participates in sports, said. “I get that when it’s intramural sports. The problem is when it’s a competitive program, and you have kids that have no desire in furthering their skills and they don’t intend to play at the high school level. They’re taking away coaching time when there are other kids that are serious about it.”
Another issue with practice during school hours, Gardner said, is that the school might not be in compliance with the Kansas Department of Education regulations.
“[According to regulations,] students are not allowed to get credit for sports practice,” Gardner said. “The distinction for that is that you would also get credit and they’re [currently] getting a quarter credit, which is what it is for sports.”
If students are not able to receive a grade or credit for practice during school hours, Gardner said, that’s a violation of regulations and should be changed. In PowerSchool, a website where parents can check their students’ grades, her son received an “A” letter grade, a 100 percent and a 0.25 percent for hours completed during seventh-hour sports practice.
“I’d like the board to actually make a decision one way or the other,” she said. “They’re going to have to have action and address this otherwise the issue isn’t going to go away. It’s going to continue to fester.”