Committee wants feedback on middle school sports travel report

Students and parents protest the middle school sports travel ban during a school summit at Thunder Mountain High School last month. Leanne Ng, left, is an organizer of the repeal campaign. (Photo by Heather Bryant/ KTOO)

Students and parents protest the middle school sports travel ban during a school summit at Thunder Mountain High School in September.  (Photo by Heather Bryant/ KTOO)

A community task force recommending middle school sports teams be allowed to travel is taking comments on its draft report.

The Juneau School Board in September voted to ban sports travel at the middle school level, prompting a public outcry and organization of the task force.

The group has researched the issue and come up with options that would allow 6th, 7th and 8th graders to travel outside Juneau for athletic competition.

 


Rhoda Yadao chairs the Floyd Dryden Middle School site council.  

I hope the school board makes a decision that speaks the voice of the community.

From responses to the school board’s decision, it appears the public felt left out of the process leading to the policy limiting athletes’ travel at both Juneau middle schools.

So parent Jon Kurland organized the Stakeholder Committee on Middle School Sports Travel. The stakeholders included parents, teachers and coaches from Dzantik’i  Heeni and Floyd Dryden middle schools as well as community  members.  It did not include any school board or district officials.  When the committee formed, board president Sally Saddler said the school district had spent enough energy on the issue.

Dzantik’i Heeni has not allowed its sports teams to travel outside Juneau since the 2011-12 school year, while Floyd Dryden’s teams continue to compete with other Southeast Alaska schools. The new policy is to take effect next fall, putting Floyd Dryden on par with DZ.

Kurland said the committee tried to address concerns raised by school board members and principals at both schools, and offer solutions.

And the hope is that both the principals would be able to get behind this or whatever the final version is and say OK there’s a reasonable set of conditions here and we can live with that and those are reasonable side boards to put on the rules allowing  out of town travel.”

Last week Kurland took the draft report to each school’s site council for input.  Yadao says she knows the Floyd Dryden site council will wholeheartedly endorse the committee’s options when the report is finalized.

“We’ve supported our travel teams. You know we live with the motto ‘no child left behind,’ that if there’s funding that ‘s needed for a child who financially can’t go that there are means, whether it’s the sports activity itself and its members, or the families of students in that sport, to contribute to allow for all students to be able to travel,” Yadao said.

The report suggests the Floyd Dryden travel policy would be a good model for the board to follow.

It recommends principals limit the cost per student for travel, as well as the number and length of trips.

Floyd Dryden teacher Molly Box was part of the Stakeholder Committee.  She says it’s important the public understands that travel is not restricted to the best players.

“Traveling opportunity is for all kids regardless of skill level and regardless of economics. So that all kids can fund raise, we make sure that teams fund raise together as much as we can,” Box said.

With budget cuts, both schools have lost office staff, making travel logistics more difficult to coordinate.

The report offers several options to address the problem, including the most  obvious – that the district could handle middle school arrangements as it currently does for some high school activities.

Kurland also took the report to the district’s Activities Advisory Committee, which did not endorse the ban, though the school board last fall said it had.

“That couldn’t be farther from the truth,” said long-time coach Tom Rutecki.

He has been an AAC member since it was formed in 2008. He said the group is adamant the school board retract its statement. But he also said the district should develop a philosophy for middle level sports programs before it comes up with a new travel policy.

School district athletic director Sandi Wagner said most middle school sports polices are based on high school athletics, and the belief is the younger students should be involved in more developmental than competitive programs.

“We need to come up with philosophy and guidelines for middle school activities,” Wagner said.  “Probably the most important things about it is the concept that all kids should be involved and there should be a no-cut policy. “

Wagner said an AAC subcommittee is just beginning to work on the middle school guidelines.

Meanwhile, Wednesday is the deadline for comments on the Stakeholder Committee’s report.  Kurland plans to present the final recommendations to the school board next month.