The Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools Board of Education voted 5-2 on Tuesday night to approve changes to academic eligibility requirements for athletes and for students involved in activities.
The new policy amendment calls for athletes who are failing or whose grades are below a C average to have a student support plan in place at their school in order to practice or play. The students who do not follow their student support plan would not be allowed to practice or play, according to the policy.
The plan calls for students to attend after-school tutoring for 30 minutes before they go to practice. Also, weekly grade checks are part of the program.
Those students who do not participate in the student support plan would not be allowed to practice or play, according to the policy.
School board members discussed whether or not the students would be required to bring their grades up within a certain time period, such as two or four weeks.
Board member Dr. Valdenia Winn, who voted against the policy change, said an end time was not clearly stated in the written policy. Dr. Winn said there were internal contradictions in the policy.
She said she was for a policy with more accountability.
Tammie Romstad, the district’s athletic director, said if students who need to bring up their grades do not make an appointment to work with their teachers the next week, they would not get to play.
Romstad said she surveyed districts in Wyandotte County, and that other districts did not have any eligibility policies different from Kansas State High School Athletic Association on their websites. The KCK district had stricter eligibility guidelines than KSHSAA. The KSHSAA guidelines are measured by grades at semester, according to officials.
Romstad said she was a proponent of setting higher standards. However, there has been a difference in getting assignments done and graded, caused by quarantines, she said.
She said the athletic directors at schools would be sending her weekly reports on grades, and she would review them. If the student support plan for each individual wasn’t working, it would be modified, she said.
Stephen Linkous, chief of staff, said they went to weekly grade checks two years ago, and the students’ grades greatly improved,prior to COVID.
“This does bring a positive push to keep students engaged,” Linkous said.
Dr. Stacy Yeager, a board member, supported the change in eligibility policy.
“Students and coaches are doing everything possible to do the best they can do,” Dr. Yeager said.
Parents are telling board members to give them policies similar to their counterparts, Dr. Yeager said.
Board Vice President Yolanda Clark said a lot of kids need their coaches, and when they remove students from the coaches, they set them up to fail.
Board member Wanda Paige said students should be required to keep their grades up in order to play, and that federal funds are available to help athletes with mental health counseling.
She suggested making mental health counseling a part of the SSP program, “because something is obviously wrong.” However, the board did not amend it to add mental health counseling.
Voting yes for the eligibility policy change were Yolanda Clark, Maxine Drew, Janey Humphries, Randy Lopez and Stacy Yeager. Voting no were Wanda Paige and Valdenia Winn.
The issue also was voted upon in September, with a similar result. It was a “third reading” for the policy.