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Coaches, board debate raising bar for athletes

January 11, 2007|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The Chambersburg Area School District intends to raise the bar for students to participate in athletics and extracurricular activities, but how high they have to jump academically was debated at Wednesday's Curriculum and Policy Committee meeting.

The district currently follows the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association standards requiring a student to be passing at least four credits on a weekly basis to be eligible to play, Assistant Superintendent Eric Michael said.

"If you're carrying seven full credits, you could fail three and still be eligible," Athletic Director Don Folmar said.

A draft of a new eligibility policy would, beginning in the 2007-08 school year, disqualify any student-athlete from playing the next week who receives an F in a class during the weekly check. The policy also would cover school board-approved clubs and programs with activities outside the regular school day.

By that standard, Folmar said a dozen winter sports athletes out of 130 would have been ineligible last week.

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Any student appearing on the weekly eligibility list who receives one or more Fs three times in a season "will be dismissed from that activity," the draft states. The standard would be higher in 2008-09 when students would be required to maintain at least a C in all subjects.

"The policy is idealistic and not realistic," said track coach Bob Walker. It could compel some students to take easier courses to maintain academic eligibility and penalize students that are already at-risk, he said.

"I think it's drastic ... I think it's almost more of a punishment," said Lori McBeth, whose son plays basketball at Faust Junior High School. She said some students would avoid challenging courses to remain eligible.

Members of the student government listed their concerns, said Folmar, including inconsistent grading by teachers and possible discrimination against students incapable of strong academic performance.

"Ultimately, what I'd like to see is a C average with no Fs," board member Renee Sharpe said.

Meeting the weekly reporting requirements might not be practical until the district has the software program to get that information to the athletic director, she said.

"What is doable is not to allow anyone to participate who has an F," Sharpe said.

Two consecutive weeks with an F might be a more realistic standard for ineligibility, board member Stanley Helman said.

Michael and Folmar will consult with the coaching staff for possible changes to the policy before brining it before the Curriculum and Policy Committee again next month.

Michael said other districts have raised standards and students have adapted. The administration wants a new policy approved this spring "so students know what's coming for the next school year," he said.

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