Athletics more important than academics? South-Western School District is hoping so

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South-Western City Schools

The website for Harrisburg Elementary, a school in the
South-Western School District, says its vision
is to be, “A respectful community inspiring and celebrating life-long
learning and achievement.” If the School Board has its way, there will be no learning, celebrating,
achievement – or even lights on – at Harrisburg this school year. There will however be lights on Friday nights. To me that’s wrong.


The website for Harrisburg Elementary, a feeder school in the South-Western School District, says the vision for the institution is to be, “A respectful community inspiring and celebrating life-long learning and achievement.”

If the South-Western School Board, which governs four high schools in suburban Columbus – Grove City, Westland, Central Crossing and Franklin Heights – has its way, there will be no learning, celebrating, achievement – or even lights on – at Harrisburg this school year.

There will however be lights on Friday nights.

To me that’s wrong.

And honestly unbelievable.

Tuesday the South-Western City School District presented a plan that would restore sports at its schools if voters approve an August 4 property-tax levy. Voters rejected the same levy by 56-percent in May.

The measure calls for the owner of a $100,000 home to pay $254 more a year.

According to school officials, all extracurriculars – athletics, band and clubs – would be restored at the high school and middle school level if the levy is passed.

That’s great, but it poses several glaring questions that need to be addressed.

The first is…How do you prepare fall sports teams for the season with such a short amount of practice time?

According to OHSAA guidelines, the fall sports coaches and athletes at Grove City, Westland, Central Crossing and Franklin Heights can have no contact with each other over the summer since the schools don’t have athletics. No camps, no weight-lifting, nothing – until August 4.

Football practice starts Aug. 3.

Next question…what about the kids who have already enrolled in other schools and started working out with new teams?

Kids are allowed to do this under OHSAA Bylaw 4-7-2 (Exception 11), which more or less says kids who are at a school that ceases to offer athletics can go to one that does.

So, say a quarterback starts practicing with a neighboring district with every intention of going there in the upcoming school year. He works out all summer with that team and goes to camps and 7-on-7 competitions. Now, what happens if the levy passes on August 4? Well according to OHSAA bylaws, that student will have to go back to the South-Western School District unless they physically move into the district they’ve been practicing with all summer.

Why? To date, according to the OHSAA the South-Western School District has yet to actually deliver on its promise of cutting sports and send in the paperwork. The OHSAA said its understanding is that such a letter will (or won’t arrive) based on the results of the Aug. 4 levy.

So, if a kid practices with a new school/team all summer and then the levy passes he has to leave (unless he moves). Not only is he affected, but so is the other district and its kids. In this capacity the South-Western School District is affecting more than just itself and the administrators can’t be that naïve. They have to know that they are affecting countless other kids lives and not just their own.

How would you like to be getting ready for a sports season and not know what school it’s going to be for? Or with what teammates? Did someone say focus?

And lets not forget the other participants in the equation – the opponents. And the athletic directors.

So all the schools with Grove City, Westland, Central Crossing and Franklin Heights on any schedule for any fall sport are supposed to just sit by and wait for the voters on August 4? Should the levy not pass, there are going to be several schools around Columbus scurrying to fill holes in their schedules. Some kids/teams will probably get cheated out of their full allotment of games.

But sports are more than games and that’s evident here.

Here sports are a pawn.

Before the last levy the district threatened to cut sports. Now that they have, their trying to use it as a lure to get the levy passed.

The real problem is that it’s come to this for the board. There’s not a lot of options.

And this isn’t a good one.

Ohio’s school funding is so out of whack that districts have to deal with levy issues all the time and at an alarmingly growing rate.

There’s not enough money coming in to the educational system that sports now have to be leveraged against communities so bent and broke that they are willing to give up a vocal, local rallying point (high school sports) in order to survive individually.

Basically it boils down to whether or not the 10,000 fans that have packed Grove City’s stadium on a Friday night want to pay an extra $254 a year to go to the games. Call it a seat-license.

The problem is voters may have already made their minds up regardless. In a District that includes four Division I-II high schools, only 80 parents, residents and staff members attended the board meeting according to the Columbus Dispatch. Although, many spoke in favor of the levy, some did not.

That’s not very good turnout for a district with that many citizens.

Attendance was far better at Harrisburg Elementary, where in 2006-07 the school earned an “Excellent” rating – the highest attainable –  on its state report card.

There will be no grade cards this year though. No crayons, painting or recess either.
And this is the most disturbing part.

Despite whatever happens August 4, the South-Western Board has said Harrisburg Elementary will not reopen this year. Other fates already decided include the losses of 24 teaching positions, nine classified positions and six administrative/administrative support staff.

None of them will be back even if the levy passes.

Football will be.

Suddenly sport is more important than smarts. Filling rosters is more important than filling grade books. Paying coaches is more important than paying teachers.

So what if the classrooms are a little more crowded, just as long as the bleachers are on a Friday night right?

There’s something wrong here.

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