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Board: Wait and see on 7th-grade sports
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When it comes to seventh-grade competitive sports at Great Bend Middle School, it could come down to a game of follow the leader, Unified School District 428 Activity Director David Meter told the School Board Monday night.

"I spent a good deal of time on this," he said, addressing the board meeting at the District Education Center. "The schedule is going to dictate seventh-grade sports at this point."

The problem is finding teams from other schools to play. Schools out west that already have competition at this level don’t want to add schools due to travel time, and most of the schools Great Bend plays at the eighth-grade level (such as Hays and McPherson) don’t want to add seventh-grade competition.

However, Meter said Salina has discussed it and will revisit the issue in February. If Salina decides to make the change, Great Bend and the others may be forced to as well because the move would impact eighth-grade scheduling.

Cost is also an issue. The current instructional league sports at GBMS (which is basically an intramural program) cost about $30,000 for equipment, coaching and related costs. Competitive sports would cost about $50,000, and that doesn’t include travel expenses.

"I believe in athletics as much as anyone," said board member Joyce Carter. But with the cost, "what would we have to cut? What would we take away from teachers and students?"

There could also be problems finding practice and game-time facilities. In addition, there is competition from outside, traveling teams.

"It would be difficult," Meter said. The middle school philosophy has always been to encourage participation, regardless of skill level, but with a competitive team, students would be cut from rosters.

Board President Dwight Young said if a student were to get cut in seventh grade, it may discourage him or her from trying in eighth grade and high school. And, it may cut the number of students who go out for sports.

But, "the numbers are there," board member Doug Bender said. As for the culling process, "they will get cut in life" and this is a good time to learn that lesson.

Bender didn’t like the idea of waiting to what Salina does. "Why not force the hand and try to find a solution?"

GBMS Assistant Principal Kathy Hafner said she was all for the idea, if there was a schedule and facilities available.

The board opted to wait on Salina.

The idea of competitive seventh-grade sports first came up in December 2010 when a group of parents addressed the board with a petition in support of the change.

In other business, the board:

• Heard an update on the effort to sell the district’s Shady Grove property. There are still interested parties, but if no deal has been made by the February board meeting, the board will look at setting a date to auction off the old school building and grounds.

• Approved the 2010-2011 business audit. In December, Vickie Dreiling, of Adams, Brown, Beran and Ball, presented to the board a first reading of the audit. ABBB issued a clean audit opinion, having no reportable budgetary, statutory or compliance violations.

• Approved the low bids to re-roof Park Elementary School ($69,320 to Diamond Roofing of Dodge City) and Great Bend Middle School ($461,900 to Larry Walty Roofing of Andover).

• Voted to take bids to replace the floor at Great Bend Middle School. Including classrooms and hallways, there are over 46,000 square feet in the building, and some rooms and halls are in worse shape than others. The total replacement will cost around $167,000, but the project is divided into zones based on priority, and contractors can bid all or just on certain zones. It will include a combination of carpet and tile, and possibly rubber tile in the band room.

• Heard a report on Gov. Sam Brownback’s school finance plan. District Business Director Dan Brungardt said the plan is not good for USD 428 because it would shift more burden to local property taxes.

• Learned the plaque honoring the original Memorial Stadium contributors has been permanently mounted in the Panther Athletic Center. The text includes a brief history of the stadium and a list of donors who helped build the first Memorial Stadium.

• Offered input as the Calendar Committee begins to formulate the district’s 2012-2013 calendar.

• Approved contributions: From Golden Belt Community Foundation, through the Kansas Health Foundation Youth Endowment Fund, to the Great Bend Middle School’s Young Kilbys Science Club, for $233.65 to pay for one Orion StarMac 90-millimeter telescope; and from the Russell Child Development Center for $925 to the Barton County Co-op of Special Services to pay for five persons to attend the KDEC Conference in Wichita.

• Approved a supplemental 21st Century Grant for $74,266. This grant helps fund summer school and various technology purchases.

• Approved the GBHS Program of Studies. This makes it possible for students, counselors, parents and staff to begin planning students’ educational courses for the next year. The classes stayed the same, but some class names were changed to be in line with state requirements.

• Approved funding for the 2012 version of Give Your Heart A Break wellness initiative. Participants, as team members, may focus on losing weight or on logging miles they walk. Plans include on-site encouragement from leaders, motivation tips, weigh-ins and prizes.

• Heard a report from Curriculum Director Ruth Heinrichs on the district’s transition to the national Common Core Standards, which will be fully implemented by 2014-2015. It is a new method of tracking student progress to improve achievement. She also discussed new methods of evaluating teachers.