School board members consider plan to help struggling athletes

Editor's note: This corrects an earlier version of this story.

New London - School board members were looking Monday to mandate that high school student athletes maintain a minimum 1.7 grade-point average but instead ended up supporting a proposal that focuses on providing academic support rather then turning kids away.

The 1.7 minimum GPA requirement proposal was removed from consideration when another policy, which allows students to play provided they meet state conference requirements and get intensive academic support, was brought forward to the members of the Board of Education's policy committee.

Committee members Jason Catala, Margaret Curtin and William Morse voted to table the less strict policy so they can collect more information but are expected to vote on it at their committee's next meeting and then send it to the full board for final approval. The trio did not express any reservations about the reduced requirement.

Under the policy, athletes would be required to receive academic support if their grade-point average falls below a 2.26, which is about a C+.

Board of Education member Barbara Major was concerned that students who couldn't meet the 1.7 GPA requirement would drop out if they couldn't play. A 1.7 GPA is equivalent to a grade of C-.

"For some kids, sports is all they have. What about the kids that can't get to a 2.0? If a child is giving all they've got and they can't get to that C, we'll lose kids. You can't teach someone if they're not in the classroom," she said.

The proposed policy crafted by the high school's athletic director and varsity football coach, Jeff Larson, allows students to participate in sports but requires increasing levels of mandatory academic support for students whose GPA falls below 2.26.

If approved, the policy is set to go into effect this fall.

"GPA doesn't equate success. What equates success is being prepared for what college brings to you and that is academics," Larson said.

Under Larson's policy, mandatory study halls will be required for all athletes during the first grading term, while one-on-one tutoring, small group tutoring or other academic support requirements will be required for all other athletes with GPAs up to 2.26.

The policy that was originally under consideration, stated that with the start of the 2012-13 school year, students must maintain a 1.7 simple GPA or a 1.7 weighted GPA if the student is enrolled in advanced placement courses. The following school year, the 1.7 GPA requirement would have been replaced with a requirement of a 2.0 GPA.

Currently, the school abides by the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference rules, which require students to be passing in four Carnegie units (classes) to be eligible to compete.

"I've spent a lot of stressful nights coming up with something the community can get behind. I think this policy can work and we can tweak it however we need to, but I don't want us to have to turn a kid away because of their grades," Larson said.

Larson's proposed policy currently does not apply to extracurricular activities, but he said that if the board wanted it to, it could.

j.hanckel@theday.com

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