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LEWISTON -- The Lewiston School Committee passed a first reading of a new athletic eligibility policy that would allow freshmen the ability to recover after "bombing" their first year of high school and eventually play sports.

Committee members voted 5-1 Monday night, with Matthew Roy voting against, to approve the request made from Lewiston High School Athletic Director Jason Fuller.

A second vote will be Aug. 18. If that passes, the new policy will take effect this fall.

The policy change lowers the number of credits athletes must achieve to participate in sports. But, Fuller said, they'll still have to be on track to graduate, achieving the 24 necessary credits their senior year.

The old policy states that athletes must have five credits after their freshman year, 11 credits after their sophomore year and 17 credits after their junior year.

Fuller asked the number of credits to be lowered to four after the freshman year, nine after the sophomore year and 16 after the junior year. He explained that the old policy didn't allow students the ability to recover and play sports if they bombed their freshman year.

The change will dangle a carrot, Fuller said, encouraging athletes to turn their education around.

Before he voted, committee Chairman Jim Handy said he understands that sports can provide a reason for some students to stay in school, but asked if the new policy would provide enough rigor.

"We need to make sure they are performing," Handy said. "We're moving toward proficiency-based learning, that does require us to say 'academics first.' If you want the privilege, you need to come through on the academics.'"

The change has rigor, Fuller said.

"I've looked at a lot of policies," Fuller said. "We're the only school I know of that has a requirement for credits per year. Our kids are on track to graduate. If you do not reach the credits, you're not eligible. And you're not eligible until you get the credits. That maintains rigor in our policy."

Superintendent Bill Webster agreed, saying the change means that eligible athletes must have the credits they'll need to graduate on time.

"That doesn't mean they aren't going to have to work on it," he said.

If a student only achieved four credits after his freshman year, "over those next three years, you'll have 20 credits. But that's still very manageable, because you could get as many as eight credits (a year) without summer school."

This fall, freshmen will be the first class to graduate with a new, tougher, proficiency-based diploma. They'll be given numbers, from one to four, on proficiency and work habits. Scores of one and two mean they're not proficient, whereas three and four mean they are.

The new eligibility policy states this fall's freshmen will have to score a minimum of two in proficiency and work habits. A score of two means a student is not yet proficient, "but working toward it," Fuller said.

Handy asked what would happen if a student got a two in proficiency, but had a work ethic of zero.

"Does that knock him out?" he said.

"Yes," Fuller said. "If he has a zero for work ethic, that individual is not participating."

Committee members also approved several policies, including one that cautioned teachers and staff about "friending" students on social media, such as Facebook.

Teachers will not be prohibited from friending students when they are a relative or friend of the family.

"We're trying to make teachers more aware of the consequences of their actions," Webster said. "We're not prohibiting it in every situation, but we want to raise awareness."

 


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