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Tougher academic standards proposed for MHS athletes

by Larry Chowning

At its June 12 meeting, the Middlesex County School Board approved a first reading of new guidelines pertaining to grade point average (GPA) requirements for students participating in athletics at Middlesex High School. The board is scheduled to finalize the new guidelines at its regular monthly meeting at 7 p.m. on Monday, July 10, in the historic courthouse in Saluda.

In the recently-completed 2016-17 school year, there were no minimum GPA requirements for participation in sports at MHS. However, MHS student-athletes still had to meet Virginia High School League (VHSL) standards, which require students to pass a certain number of classes per semester to be eligible to play sports.

The school board proposal states that the more stringent new standards will be phased in over the next three fiscal years—with the final semester of 2019-20 requiring students to have a 2.0 or above GPA in order to participate in sports at MHS.

“The proposed policy that passed on first reading is really part of a much bigger initiative,” said school superintendent Dr. Peter Gretz. “We are working to articulate a vision for the excellence we both expect and believe to be at work in the lives of our students.

“A committee, initiated by the school board, consists of representatives from the high school and middle school leadership, guidance departments, athletic department and division-wide leadership,” he said. “We have also reached out to students and parents to begin to incorporate those voices as well. Elliott Reed is the school board representative who has been participating on the committee.

“The core values we identified were leadership, honor, commitment and respect. Our definitions for those values are driving our work to articulate both the academic and behavioral expectations that we have for students,” said Dr. Gretz.

“The minimum GPA policy is not designed to prevent anyone from participating in athletics, nor is it designed to ‘catch’ those students who are underperforming and give them a consequence. Rather, it is designed to create a shared understanding of what it means to push oneself to one’s potential, to provide leadership throughout the school community, and to maximize learning both on and off the athletic field,” said Dr. Gretz.

“The policy is designed to create a fabric of support and expectation. If students are struggling academically our design is to provide personal support so they can maximize their potential as learners while representing the school community as athletes as well.

“The next phase of this work will involve behavioral expectations in the same spirit as the academic requirements are being identified. It will not be designed to give consequences for bad behavior so much as to create a culture of respect and leadership that we all can strive for,” continued Dr. Gretz. 

“We believe that by communicating to students that we believe and expect the very best from them while simultaneously demonstrating that we are committed to walking with them through their decisions, including their mistakes, that we can help them to maximize their potential,” he said.

The proposed standards are as follows:

2017-18 School Year
  • School year grades will be checked at the end of the first 9-week grading period. Students whose GPA is below 1.6 will be required to attend after-school tutoring sessions throughout the duration of the next quarter grading period, during which time they will be allowed to participate in athletics provided they attend the tutoring sessions.
  • Grades will be checked at the end of the second 9-week grading period (end of the first semester). Students whose GPA is still below 1.6 will be ineligible for participation in sports during the following semester.

2018-19 School Year
  • Students must enter the 2018-19 school year with a minimum GPA of 1.6 in order to be eligible for athletic participation.
  • Grades will be checked at the end of the first 9-week grading period. Students whose GPA is below 1.8 will be required to attend after-school tutoring sessions throughout the duration of the next quarter grading period, during which time they will be allowed to participate in athletics provided they attend the tutoring sessions. 
  • Grades will be checked at the end of the second 9-week grading period (end of the first semester). Students whose GPA is still below 1.8 will be ineligible for participation in sports during the following semester.

2019-20 School Year
  • Students must enter the 2019-20 school year with a minimum GPA of 1.8 in order to be eligible for athletic participation.
  • Grades will be checked at the end of the first 9-week grading period. Students whose GPA is below 2.0 will be required to attend after-school tutoring sessions throughout the next quarter grading period, during which time they will be allowed to participate in athletics provided they attend the tutoring sessions.
  • Grades will be checked at the end of the second 9-week grading period (end of the first semester). Students whose GPA is still below 2.0 will be ineligible for participation in sports during the following semester.

2020-21 and beyond
  • Beginning with the 2020-21 school year and moving forward, grades will be checked at the same points of the school year described above. The standard minimum GPA requirement at each checkpoint will be 2.0.
  • Students, both eligible and ineligible, will be monitored, counseled, and given the opportunity to participate in tutoring programs throughout the year. Students who become ineligible for participation are encouraged to continue tutoring services during the semester following the determination of eligibility.

Rising freshmen
The GPA of rising freshmen will be calculated by the high school guidance department. Freshman students whose eligibility is in jeopardy due to a low GPA will be counseled and offered tutoring services.

Committee
The Extracurricular Eligibility Committee will consist of the high school principal, director of student activities and a member of the guidance department. The committee may involve additional members provided those three specified positions are participating.

Situations involving extracurricular circumstances may be reviewed and considered by the Extracurricular Eligibility Committee at the request of the student or the student’s parent or guardian. Accordingly, students may be granted a one-time exemption from the minimum GPA eligibility requirement—to be allowed on one occasion during the student’s high school career in Middlesex County.

posted 06.21.2017

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