Baldwin-Whitehall School District leaders have been debating extracurricular activities eligibility policies since early March, and on Wednesday night, they came to an agreement in time for the 2012-13 school year.
The B-W School Board approved two revised policies, both by an 8-0 vote, that make eligibility standards the same for all extracurricular activities at J.E. Harrison Middle and Baldwin High schools—from basketball to band, from French Club to football.
The nine-member school board—member Nancy Lee Crowder was absent for personal reasons—argued over why varsity athletics should be treated any differently than other groups but couldn't come up with a good enough reason why.
As such, the board agreed to adopt the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA)'s academic eligibility standard for any student in the district's secondary schools wanting to participate in any activity.
The PIAA's standard—listed here on its website—requires students to "be passing at least four (any) full-credit subjects, or the equivalent" to be eligible. (A passing grade in B-W is a 60 percent.)
But there will be a notable wrinkle in Baldwin-Whitehall's handling of eligibility, district Superintendent Dr. Randal A. Lutz explained on Wednesday.
While all students in B-W will be held to the PIAA's standard on a weekly basis, Lutz said—with eligibility being determined every Friday and with an ineligibility period starting that coming Sunday and lasting through the next Saturday—B-W will institute its own academic probationary status before students reach ineligibility as a way of trying to prevent that from happening.
While B-W's probationary status does not make students ineligible for activities, it does hold students to a higher level of accountability, Lutz explained—at least a 2.0 overall grade point average and passing grades in math, English, social studies and science (when scheduled, as science is only a three-year requirement in B-W).
"We didn't want to sit back and do nothing and just wait until the kids got to that point (ineligibility)," Lutz said. "That would be a 'gotcha' game to deem them ineligible."
Instead, the probationary status waves a warning flag for district administrators and teachers to work closer with students who are close to ineligibility.
Once a student is on probationary status, he or she can be kept on probation by district administration until his or her activity is complete for that school year. And, any student on probation can be declared ineligible by administration should he or she not make sufficient academic progress as determined by administration, regardless of whether or not he or she is eligible under the PIAA's minimum standard.
"Participation in athletics or (other) extracurricular activities is a privilege," Lutz said. "If children are sitting there flat and not making any gains (or) causing disruption, it is always the administrators' right to restrict participation.
"These are minimum standards."
Check back with the Baldwin-Whitehall Patch throughout Thursday for more odds and ends from Wednesday night's school board meeting, including information regarding a new teachers contract, employees' safety and more.
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