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State school board furthers year-round coaching policy

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State school board places year-round coaching policy on comment|
By Ryan Quinn, The Charleston Gazette

The West Virginia Board of Education voted Wednesday to put out for 30-day public comment period policy changes that would allow year-round coaching by certified middle and high school coaches.

Current policy allows for only three weeks of out-of-season sports practice or related activities. Martinsburg High School Principal Trent Sherman, who proposed the change, said those weeks are generally in June.

If approved by the state school board, likely at its July meeting, the modification would allow coaching all year save for Saturdays, Sundays, the week of July 4 and one week before the start of the season, a time that will differ depending on the sport. With principal approval, Saturday and Sunday activities could be allowed as part of a camp or league.

Sherman told board members the change would level the playing field for West Virginia students who must play against athletes from bordering states that have looser out-of-season coaching rules, and for disadvantaged students who sometimes can’t afford to pay to practice and play in Amateur Athletic Union and travel teams during the summer. He also said coaches of such leagues sometimes don’t understand the academic pressures students face.

“So they may take their kids away for the weekend to some tournament in Chicago, when they gotta take exams the following Monday,” Sherman said.

He also argued that college recruiters can’t watch West Virginia students throw or catch during the spring.

But year-round coaching is controversial. Before sending it to the state school board, the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission’s Board of Control, made up of school principals, approved Sherman’s proposal at its April meeting with a 54-53 vote. The Board of Control also approved several other proposals by wider margins, several unanimously. The state school board placed all of them on public comment.

Of the seven voting state school board members who attended Wednesday’s meeting, two, Bill White and Beverly Kingery, voted against even putting the changes out for comment. Board President Gayle Manchin and fellow member Lloyd Jackson didn’t attend.

Kingery said she’s concerned that allowing year-round coaching could interfere with family time, and said that, because it would be optional for schools, it would separate those schools and districts that can afford to extend coaching from those that can’t.

“We’re going to separate the haves from the have nots,” she said. She also said the West Virginia Association of School Administrators is opposed.

White said he doesn’t want to see coaches use the year-round option to pressure students into only playing their sport, even though the out-of-season sessions are supposed to be optional.

The proposed athletic policy changes are not yet posted online for public comment, but will be found at https://wvde.state.wv.us/policies/.

Also Wednesday, the board:

• Approved a statewide policy waiver that will allow high school students who take both Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps 1 and JROTC 2 to count the two military-related courses as the one physical education credit required to graduate. The waiver is effective for the current and upcoming academic years.

• Congratulated staff from the state departments of Education and Health and Human Resources for helping West Virginia receive high rankings on the latest State of Preschool report by the National Institute for Early Education Research. The Mountain State ranked fifth in the nation for the amount of 4-year-olds in pre-kindergarten in 2014, with 69 percent of the 4-year-old population enrolled. It ranked seventh for the proportion of 3-year-olds enrolled, at 11 percent.