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ROGERS -- The School District on Tuesday became the latest Northwest Arkansas district to decide to implement a seventh-grade athletics program starting this fall.

The School Board voted unanimously to accept athletic director Keith Kilgore's recommendation to begin offering football, volleyball, cross country, basketball, track, cheer and dance in seventh grade at each of Rogers' four middle schools.

Elementary 16

A breakdown of costs for the Rogers School District’s 16th elementary school:

• Building package: $17,885,986

• Site package: $1,726,472

• Garrett Road improvements: $1,200,000

• Security cameras: $100,000

• Playground equipment: $200,000

• Furniture, fixtures and equipment: $2,235,450

• Total: $23,347,908

Source: Staff report

The move will cost the district $198,668 for the first year, including start-up costs. Roughly half of that money will go toward stipends for coaches. The rest will go toward equipment and officials. The program will cost about $156,000 each subsequent year, according to Kilgore.

No additional personnel will be needed to fill coaching positions. All coaches will be certified coaches through the Arkansas Activities Association. There will be an athletic period for each sport that will count as a physical-education credit for those enrolled, Kilgore said.

Rogers added sports to the school day for eighth-graders last school year. Adding seventh-grade athletics is expected to impact nearly 700 students, Kilgore said.

Athletic directors of Northwest Arkansas' largest school districts have spent the past several months discussing the possibility of seventh-grade athletics and making it part of the Northwest Arkansas Junior High Conference.

The Bentonville School Board agreed in December to add seventh-grade athletics. The Fayetteville School Board is scheduled to vote on the matter Thursday. The Springdale and Siloam Springs districts already have seventh-grade athletic programs.

Rogers officials have been meeting since September to figure out the logistics of implementing seventh-grade athletics.

"Master schedules have been developed for each building to provide this opportunity without limiting course offerings," Kilgore said.

One of the concerns district officials had was the possibility seventh-graders would have to choose between a sport or a music class. That has been worked out because a computer coding class typically taken in seventh grade can be taken in eighth, when students' schedules are more flexible, said Charles Lee, assistant superintendent for general administration.

In other business at Tuesday's meeting, the board approved spending $17,885,986 for construction of the district's 16th elementary school.

"That's a little less than what we had originally anticipated, so we're happy with that," Lee said.

Bids on the project were opened Jan. 30. Flintco, the firm managing the project, spent time vetting the bids to make sure the contractors could do what they said they would do, Lee said.

The construction cost -- combined with the site work, infrastructure improvements, security cameras, playground equipment, furniture and equipment -- means the project will cost the district no more than $23.3 million.

The yet-to-be-named elementary school is being built at West Garrett and South Bellview roads. It's expected to open in August 2019.

The board also approved hiring Hight Jackson Associates as the architect and Nabholz Construction as the construction manager for a project at Lowell Elementary School.

The project involves constructing a hall between the two buildings on campus so students don't get caught outside in between the buildings, which are ordinarily locked for security reasons. Enclosing the walkway will allow free travel between the buildings.

"It seems like a small thing, but it's going to be great for that school," said Marlin Berry, superintendent.

The district won't know a final cost on the project until May. Construction will start when school lets out for the summer and is expected to be complete by the time school opens again in August, according to a timeline Lee provided.

NW News on 02/21/2018

Print Headline: Seventh-graders to get sports in Rogers

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