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Middle school sports OK'd in Berkeley County

April 23, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The Martinsburg Bulldogs soon will have puppies, the Hedgesville Eagles will have chicks and the Musselman Applemen - well, apple dumplings anyone?

After a 3-2 vote, Berkeley County Board of Education members gave the thumbs-up to starting basketball programs in the county's four middle schools.

Each of the county's middle schools will field four teams - a girls eighth-grade team, a boys eighth-grade team, a girls seventh-grade team and a boys seventh-grade team - plus a cheerleading squad.

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Sixth-graders will not have teams, and eighth-graders no longer will be able to advance early to high school teams, board member Patrick Murphy said.

Murphy, Todd Beckwith and Rick Pill voted for the idea. Board President Bill Queen and Bill Norris voted against it.

"It was an amiable split," Murphy said.

Teams can practice for one hour three times per week, Murphy said.

Although middle schools will be given county money to start up their teams, an understanding is in place that the money must be paid back. After the first year, teams would be self-sufficient, relying on concession stand and ticket sales to buy uniforms and other equipment, Deputy Superintendent Frank Aliveto has said. The county would continue paying coaches' salaries.

Jefferson County offers basketball, football and track to its middle-school students. A teacher at Charles Town Middle School in Jefferson County, Murphy said he has seen the benefits of middle-school sports.

"I see good in it because of the spirit and the energy it directs," Murphy said. "I like the atmosphere that it creates in the school."

He also said students who may not excel academically can become stars because of athletic abilities.

State regulations require the season be held at the same time as high school programs. The high school basketball season begins in November and can continue into March.

One concern, Murphy said, is whether enough gym space will be available in schools for all the teams to practice. Some high school girls teams use middle-school gymnasiums for practice, Murphy said. He questioned whether Title IX regulations would be affected.

Two parents brought up the idea of reintroducing middle-school sports in the county.

When Berkeley County changed from a junior high to a middle-school system in the mid-1970s, sports teams were dropped.

With basketball now in place, other sports could follow, Aliveto has said.

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