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USD 428 eyeing 7th grade sports
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In other action, the USD 428 School Board:

• Heard a presentation by certified public accountant Vickie Dreiling of Adams, Brown, Beran and Ball on the district’s audit. The financial statements earned an "unqualified opinion," the highest possible. She also said the district did a good job of increasing cash balances. There were a few minor problems, such as the timely depositing of activity receipts and an outstanding uncashed payroll check, but Dreiling said these matters were being addressed. The board will approve the audit at its January meeting.

• Approved a roofing bid for Jefferson and Riley elementary schools, and the district warehouse. The winning bid was $356,610 from Diamond Roofing of Dodge City.

• Approved a quote from C.V. Cale Construction of Great Bend to replace doors at Washington Early Education Center, Riley Elementary School and the old portion of the GBHS field house. The total came to $15,856.

• Discussed amending the Barton County Cooperative of Special Services Agreement, covering special education. Currently, the co-op service area includes Claflin. However, with Claflin consolidating with the Lorraine school district forming Central Plains USD 112, the newly formed district is seeking to have the Salina co-op handle special education. No action was taken. The USD 112 board also met Monday night and discussed the matter, but their decision wasn’t available at presstime.

• Approved the 2011-2012 Program of Studies for Great Bend High School. This includes what courses will be offered and is important so students, parents and counselors can plan class schedules.

• Authorized the Autism Interdisciplinary Team of the Barton County Special Services Cooperative to request a $300 donation from the Walmart Supercenter. The money would be used to purchase equipment to help autistic students.

• Heard a report on a plan to honor those who purchased name plates as donations for the original GBHS Memorial Stadium bleachers in the 1950s. It could include a large plaque with the names, a photo and a history of the structure. The cost would be around $500. No decision was made.

• Heard a report about the possibility of using a device that would allow multiple students to work off one computer at the same time, and the experimental use of Ipads by some administrators and faculty.

• Hired Cassandra Borg as a math teacher at GBHS.

• Heard a breakdown of the 2010 Challenge Awards earned by district schools. The awards are given by the state based on performance on state assessment tests.

• Discussed financial literacy among district students, including such items as the ability to balance a checkbook, and how well students could write a letter based on standard letter-writing rules.

Great Bend, some parents say, is losing its competitive edge with other school districts by not offering competitive sports at the seventh grade level. This was the message delivered by one of these parents who addressed the Unified School District 428 School Board Monday night.

"We’re falling behind much of the state," Tatum Dunekack said at the District Education Center. "We want to stay competitive." She, along with her husband Mike, attended the meeting, indicating they are not alone.

"We have plenty of parental support," Dunekack said. They have gathered 200 signatures on a petition, and garnered the backing of several high school and middle school coaches.

However, Board President Dwight Young said no action could be taken Monday. The issue would be forwarded to the Great Bend Middle School administration to put together a report and make a recommendation.

"This can only lead to a positive improvement in USD 428 athletic programs," Dunekack said in making her plea. In addition to bettering the quality of sports teams, competitive sports have been shown to foster better grades, better attendance and lower drop-out rates.

As it is now, she said, many kids are involved in competitive, traveling sports starting in fourth grade through sundry traveling teams. However, there is a gap between sixth and eighth grades.

Scholastic competitive sports start in eighth grade at Great Bend. In most sports, there are only instructional, or intramural, sports in seventh grade.

There is a chance both the competitive and instructional programs could coexist at GBMS.

As it is, there is already competitive track and wrestling in seventh grade. "You’ve opened the door," she said. "Don’t shut the door on other athletes."

There are two possible ways this might work, Dunekack said. First, there could be separate seventh grade teams for each sport. Second, there could be A and B middle school teams, and both seventh and eighth grade students would compete for positions.

Dunekack said she also had the support from USD 428 Activities Director David Meter.

Meter said they recondition used eighth grade equipment which could be used for the seventh grade teams. So, there would be little additional equipment costs. There could also be fees to participate and scholarships could be available.

However, he said, scheduling could be a problem.

There are several similarly sized districts, such as Liberal, Garden City and Hutchinson, which already have seventh grade programs. Also, smaller surrounding schools, such as Ellinwood, Claflin and Hoisington, have them as well.

Nonetheless, unless the smaller schools are willing to play Great Bend, then getting a complete schedule could be difficult, and finding enough larger schools nearby would also cause problems. "It’ll be a challenge," Meter said. He doesn’t like the idea of seventh graders riding for hours on a bus.

As for travel and coaches, there could be some shared traveling and coaching duties. The district has one coach for about 12-15 athletes.

Dunekack said "the vast majority" of other schools have seventh grade competitive sports. And, she said, some districts have declined to allow their eighth grade teams to play Great Bend since they don’t want to send their seventh and eighth grade teams to different locations.