by Terry Rogers
Milford School District discussed a change to their policy that would permanently allow 8th grade students to participate in high school athletics. The policy is currently in place but must be reviewed regularly.
“Our coaches and our athletic director are in favor of continuing this policy,” Gary Zoll, Principal of Milford Central Academy and Milford High School, said. “They thought it would give our student athletes chances that they didn’t have before and helped them a lot in fielding some JV teams. So, just to give you some of the opportunities for students, we had an eighth grade wrestler last year that placed second in state.”
Superintendent Kevin Dickerson pointed out that without allowing the eighth graders to participate, there were some spring teams that may not be fielded as there were not enough players. School Board Vice-President Rony Baltazar-Lopez asked if this was a policy the district hoped to make permanent, and Dr. Dickerson agreed that it was.
“The question is, Mr. Baltazar-Lopez, do we have another review two or three years down the road or do we just make this a permanent policy and get back to revision whenever appropriate?” Dr. Dickerson said. “I think what we are asking for is just a little more clarity regarding what the board wants to see here and extend into future years.”
Board member Kris Thompson pointed out that Milford Central Academy may not have a team that the high school has which means that an eighth grader could miss out on participating.
“We don’t have all those sports at MCA, so our eighth graders who like swimming and tennis don’t have a chance to play those and get them interested in those sports before they get to high school,” Thompson said. “I can speak on behalf of being a coach at MCA and the downside as a coach is to have a great team going into eighth grade and you lose a couple of your star athletes. We don’t have state championships, you don’t have conference championships and allowing some of these athletes to move up and compete in high school as eighth graders has given them some huge benefit for later on when they mature, become juniors or seniors, there is no state tournament they have not seen yet. There’s no competition they haven’t seen. I think we’ve done a really good job piloting this program and I think it is time to move it toward a more permanent solution.”
Dr. Dickerson also pointed out that there has been increased participation among Milford Central Academy students with this policy. It has allowed the school to offer more JV programs than they could were eighth graders not permitted to compete at the high school level. School board member David Vezmar asked if this could be changed to an action item as the board had reviewed the policy several times over the past few years.
“I don’t see it necessary to have a review period,” Vezmar said. “I think we’ve done that. My recommendation would be to make it permanent and if the need arises to review it later, we can do that.”
School board President, Jason Miller agreed, stating that the district had a superintendent and athletic director who would keep an eye on it. Dr. Dickerson stated that the policy would be brought to the next school board meeting as an action item.
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