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ROGERS -- Eighth-grade football, volleyball, girls and boys basketball will join the school day schedule this fall in the Rogers School District.

It will be the first time team athletics have been part of the school day since Oakdale and Elmwood were junior high schools nine years ago, administrators said. Sports have been and after-school activity since the conversion to middle schools.

The vote:

After-school sports programs exist for eighth grade football, volleyball, girls and boys basketball, cross country, track, cheer and pom in Rogers. Board members voted Tuesday to phase in changes to include more middle school sports programming.

In the 2016-2017 school year eighth grade football, volleyball, girls and boys basketball will become part of the school day.

In the 2017-2018 school year eighth grade cross country, track, cheer and pom will also become a part of the school day and the district will add some seventh grade athletic programs.

Source: Staff Report

Cross country, track, cheer and pom will follow in the 2017-2018 school year, following a vote by the School Board Tuesday night.

Board members added the 2017-2018 deadline as a promise to other students involved in other sports.

"I think eighth-grade athletics in the school day is a no-brainer," said Lisa Anderson, vice president of the School Board.

Anderson worried during the meeting phasing only some sports sends a message there's a pecking order among programs.

The chief problem with the transition is teacher schedules, administrators told the board.

There are 40 middle school coaches, Mark Holderbaum, athletics director told the board. Twenty-seven of them need changes to their teaching schedules or will have to certify as a physical education teacher in middle school to include all sports in the school day. Only 10 would be affected by by phasing in the change with four programs the first year, Holderbaum said.

Not all those teachers even work in middle school buildings. Two of the middle school cross country coaches and a cheer coach teach at elementary schools, Holderbaum said.

The last period of middle school begins at 2:10 p.m., Janie Darr, superintendent told board members. Elementary schools let out at 2:45 p.m., and teachers are expected to stay until 3 p.m. That leaves those coaches no way to attend practice for their sport.

"They're good coaches and we don't want to lose them," Darr said.

The most challenging positions to fill are special education teachers and coaches, Roger Hill, assistant superintendent for human resources, told the board.

Board members asked administrators to make a special effort to support sports that won't be part of the school day next fall.

"It's even a bigger disadvantage because they may not have a ride home," Paige Sultemeier, board member, said of students in track or cross country.

The district could run buses to certain areas to support those students like they do for some other academic programs, Darr said.

Board members also asked administrators to find a way to start seventh grade programs by 2017-2018. That needs more research an time for to raise start up money, Holderbaum said.

"I'm not satisfied that I can offer you a good program if we try to do it now," Holderbaum said.

Byron Black, secretary said he'd heard from parents around the district on the topic.

"They've made it crystal clear to me that they want solid programs, extracurricular activities across the board," Black said.

That program will likely be after-school, Holderbaum told board members.

Eighth-graders have seven class periods with four core classes, said Robert Moore, assistant superintendent for secondary curriculum and instruction. There's a one semester required career development class but they have more room for electives than seventh-graders.

The school day sports will meet student's physical education requirements and will be turned into a year-long class, Moore told board members.

Seventh-graders have five core classes plus physical education and keyboarding requirements, Moore said after the meeting.

Right now seventh-graders "play up," by joining the eighth-grade teams, Holderbaum told board members.

The rules are still in place for playing up, but those guidelines may have to change as administrators roll out school day schedules for eighth grade, Holderbaum said after the meeting.

Bentonville, Fayetteville and Springdale all have athletics for eighth grade in the school day, Holderbaum told the board during his presentation.

Springdale offers sports to seventh-graders, Holderbaum said, as do several smaller districts in some fashion or other, including Siloam Springs, Pea Ridge and some River Valley schools.

The goal for Rogers is to foster competitive programs, Holderbaum said.

NW News on 02/17/2016

Print Headline: Board debates athletics as part of school day

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