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Athletic eligibility policy revised

District 833 athletic coaches and activity directors want to intercept players who are struggling with academics before they are in danger of being sidelined for failing their classes.

Proposed policy changes up for school board approval July 15 would require teachers to talk to coaches or the building's activity director when a student is struggling so students get remedial help to prevent them from failing.

Many teachers do this now, but it is not formal policy, said activity directors Phil Kuemmel, Trent Hanson and Jason Schultz, who are recommending the change. The new policy would also include monitoring to make sure students getting help are sticking to the program laid out for them.

Athletes can be moved from probationary status to ineligible if they are not following their academic plans.

"Students have to make progress," said Kuemmel, athletic director at Park High School.

The new policies also reflect what sports coaches are already doing at the three high schools, according to the three directors.

Coaches have been "pretty amazing," Kuemmel said. They are more concerned with students doing well academically than they are with their athletic skills.

"I've never seen an occasion with a coach when school is not important," he said.

The policies are exclusive to the district and don't reflect rules set forth by the Minnesota State High School League, according to the activity directors.

"The district has higher standards than the high school league," said Superintendent Mark Porter.

To be eligible to play sports or participate in other activities governed by league rules, athletes need to be "making progress toward graduation," Porter said.

Kuemmel explained that the rule could be interpreted to say that a player is eligible when he or she is failing classes because of the expectation they will pass enough classes in the future to graduate.

Another part of the new policy would give students who played on middle school or community education teams a clean slate in ninth grade if they opt to play.

Kuemmel said the policy change will encourage more kids coming from middle school to get involved in extracurricular activities and sports.

The policy would also realign the number of credits student-athletes must have to maintain eligibility when the school day goes from four periods to six-period days this fall.

The trimester system roughly coincides with the sports seasons, so informing coaches of athletes' academic progress will become easier, as will determining whether the student is ineligible, on probation or eligible to play.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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