OROVILLE – After tabling the issue two weeks ago, the Oroville School Board approved a one-year pilot program allowing eighth graders to participate in high school sports.
The eighth graders can only play in sports that do not offer junior high teams in these particular sports though. And, the decision has to be approved by the NC2B league as well.
The decision was tabled at the earlier meeting so that staff could research what other schools were doing and how eighth graders playing in high school sports at the schools that do allow it had affected their programs.
Chuck Ricevuto, the head of the Oroville Coach’s Association, said he contacted every B and Double B program he could get ahold of. He said Wellpinit allows the eighth graders to play if there isn’t an eighth grade team offered in a particular sport. He also said Lake Roosevelt was considering it, but had no current policy. Kittitas does allows it for baseball and Liberty Bell allows it if there is no junior high program and it can salvage a high school team, but only if there are not enough numbers otherwise.
“Some of the schools that are considering it are in the same boat that we are,” said Ricevuto, referring to several Oroville high school teams that haven’t enough players or have just barely enough, making it hard for them to compete.
“I would ask for a little work on the urgency of the matter for the girls soccer and cross country teams,” Ricevuto said.
Dane Forrester, Oroville Girls Softball Coach, said he really would like to see the eighth grade girls moved up as it would make his team more viable.
“I don’t want people to think it would put them in harms way, I don’t want to see any of our student athletes ever put in harms way,” Forrester said.
“I support it, they say baseball is the great equalizer, you don’t have to be a big guy to play,” said Tam Hutchinson, Oroville High School Baseball Coach. “We have a youth program that ends at sixth grade, we don’t have enough kids for Babe Ruth or a junior high team. This would allow the kids to become more experienced and salvage our program.”
Golf coach DeHaven Hill said, “It’s the warm body theory. In spring there is only one sport with a junior high team (track and field). I think this is an opportunity for a positive result that would allow these kids to play a sport and to develop the skills they otherwise would not develop until they get to me, while also helping our kids who currently play the sport.”
Girls soccer coach Laura Kinman also said she wanted to see the eighth graders play on her high school team. She said the youth soccer program ended in the sixth grade and there was not a junior high team.
“I want to give these girls an opportunity… I always tell the girls we don’t quit. I don’t want us to quit on them,” said Kinman.
Athletic Director Brett Fancher didn’t agree with the coaches.
“I’m still of the opinion that we should not do it,” said Fancher, who added he had done some research of what other schools Oroville’s size offer for sports.
He said Oroville had a team sports program with 18 teams, while the average for 2B schools was 10 and for 1A it was 14 and for 2A it was just over 18.
“We can talk about what we offer, but we’re right up there and the district has experienced a decline in enrollment since the late 1980s. Do we want as many teams as we can have, but are struggling, or do we want to cut and offer stronger teams?” asked Fancher.
“That’s not the issue, we’re here to discuss bringing the eighth graders up, not diminishing our program,” replied Hutchinson. “Cutting programs is an entirely different issue. We’re asking only for the programs where teams are not available at the junior high level.”
Superintendent Steve Quick asked the board to consider the other side of the coin and to think of ways to change the program to offer more to eighth graders. He also listed several things he felt were cons, including the lower maturity of eighth graders and the idea of a 13-year-old eighth grader going up against an 18-year-old high school senior.
“I would recommend we not do this, but I have no problem with the board voting against me,” said Quick.
Board members Rocky DeVon and Amy Wise said they had gotten a lot of support from parents of eighth graders who felt the decision as to whether they be allowed to join a high school team should belong to the parents.
“I got a resounding, ‘let the parent have the decision, not the board,’” said board chairman DeVon.
“That’s what I’ve been hearing, the parents want the decision,” added Wise.
High School Principal Kristin Sarmiento asked, “Are we doing this to salvage or strengthen our high school teams?”
“Both” answered the coaches.
Board member David Nutt made a motion to approve allowing eighth graders to participate in high school sports where there was no junior high team. The motion was seconded by Wise. Nutt and Wise voted to approve and Directors Todd Hill and Travis Loudon voted against wishing for further information. DeVon broke the tie by voting against, but offered a different motion.
“I’m going to vote no and put the motion back out there and amend it to a one year pilot program,” said DeVon.
Wise seconded the motion and it passed, with all voting for the pilot program except Director Hill.
See more on last Monday’s school board meeting in next week’s Gazette-Tribune. The next meeting of the Oroville School Board is planned for board room at the district office, located at 816 Juniper, on Monday, Sept. 24 beginning at 6:30 p.m.