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School Board to decide on middle school sports

February 17, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

Members of the Berkeley County Board of Education have the ball in their hands, and must decide whether to shoot for having sports teams in the county's four middle schools.

Basketball would be first, if school officials decide it's a good idea.

Forming middle school sports teams was an idea sparked by two parents, who recently asked board members to consider the notion.

Nearly every other county in the state has such teams in place for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders, said Berkeley County Deputy Superintendent Frank Aliveto.

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Aliveto has prepared a report on the possibility, which he said he will present to board members for consideration at their meeting Monday night.

If the board OKs the idea, all four county middle schools could have boys and girls basketball programs in place as early as next year, along with cheerleading. Other sports could follow, Aliveto said.

The plan is not without potential problems.

Not all of the county's middle schools have scoreboards, and Musselman Middle has only a few rows of bleachers.

Securing gymnasium space for practices and games also could be a concern, Aliveto said. Per state regulations, the season would need to be held at the same time as varsity and junior varsity high school programs.

Costs are also an issue.

The county would have to foot the bill for the first season - a projected cost of around $50,000 for basketballs, uniforms, other miscellaneous equipment and coaches' salaries.

After that, the teams would be almost self-sufficient. Using concession stand sales and ticket receipts, teams could buy their own equipment, pay referees and foot transportation costs, Aliveto said.

The county would still have to pay coaches' salaries, expected to cost between $27,000 and $28,000 a year.

Aliveto said adequately funding instructional programs is a higher priority than sports. Unless that is determined to have been accomplished, middle schoolers who want to play basketball will have to do so in their driveways or in the county recreation leagues.

A curious spectator to this whole issue is Steve Catlett, director of Martinsburg-Berkeley County Parks & Recreation. Should middle schools start offering basketball, Catlett said it could have "a very significant impact" on his programs.

Every year, more than 1,000 children play basketball for county teams, Catlett said.

Not only does he predict fewer children would play for county teams, but he said access to schools for practices and games could be a problem. Now, he said, Parks & Recreation is fortunate that school officials allow county teams to use their property.

Girls in the county leagues play in the fall, while boys and "squirt" teams - made up of first- and second-graders - play in January, February and March, Catlett said.

School sports were not always limited to high school students.

In the mid-1970s, Berkeley County converted from a junior high to a middle school system. Junior high schools had sports teams, but they fell by the wayside in the transition, Aliveto said.

If the teams rebound next year, players at Hedgesville Middle, Musselman Middle, North Martinsburg Middle and South Martinsburg Middle would play each other and the three middle schools in Jefferson County, allowing for a 14- to 16-game schedule, including a tournament, Aliveto said.

Aliveto said sports teams can foster school spirit, loyalty and cohesiveness.

"We all want our kids involved and that's a positive way to keep kids involved," he said.

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