Columbia County school board members decided last week not to immediately act on a list of recommendations to restructure middle school sports programs.
Those recommendations include:
- Limiting sports to just seventh- and eighth-graders, effectively eliminating junior varsity programs.
- Starting football and softball seasons after Labor Day, and starting basketball season after the first semester of school.
- Allowing seventh- and eighth-graders to play on high school teams, at the high school's discretion, in any sport not offered at the middle school level.
- Eliminate golf, but add volleyball to middle schools.
- Charging a participation fee to play middle school sports, with the understanding that no player can be denied due to lack of funds to pay a fee.
The report was devised by an 12-member committee of high- and middle-school athletic directors, middle-school principals and county recreation officials studying middle school sports programs since August.
On Tuesday, the committee presented to the board changes they had unanimously selected to revamp those programs.
The board in May discussed eliminating some sports programs to save money. Programs considered for termination at that time included track, junior varsity softball, junior varsity baseball, soccer, golf and tennis.
The fate of the committee's recommendations likely will be determined by the amount of money available to continue them.
"Unfortunately ... it is going to be funding that drives some of the decision making," board member Mike Sleeper said.
Superintendent Charles Nagle suggested that the board make no immediate decision on sports programs, and instead wait until the board starts discussions on next year's budget.
Nagle said he also wants to discuss the recommendations with middle school principals.
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