Fayette County school board members have decided to keep an athletic policy that has again caused parents and students to plead for change.
At a board meeting this week, parent Allison Soult was the latest parent who tried to convince board members to change a policy concerning magnet middle school students, but the board voted to include the policy in the 2018-19 athletic handbook.
Seventh- and eighth-grade students in Fayette County can “play up,” meaning they can play on high school athletic teams. But middle school students in magnet programs have to play at the high school assigned to their home address, not the high school that their magnet middle school program feeds into.
Families say because of the travel distance between schools, the policy can mean that magnet middle students don’t have time in the afternoon to travel across town to participate in school sports. Other parents have said it’s unfair that magnet students have to separate from their classroom peers to play sports.
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Soult told board members on Monday that the policy stands to hurt Bryan Station High School, which houses the district's only high school Spanish Immersion program, because Bryan Station Middle School Spanish Immersion students aren't allowed to play sports at the high school unless their home is assigned to Bryan Station's district.
"Requiring students to play up at their home school is becoming an unfair issue to the students as well as the school," she said.
In 2016, Madison Camuel, a student in the Tates Creek Middle School gifted accelerated program, cried as she implored Fayette County Public Schools board members to change a policy preventing her from swimming for Tates Creek High School, located on the same campus as her school . About a year ago, Bryan Station Middle School Spanish Immersion students Evan Amend and Mason Dunn went to a school board meeting, along with several others , to ask board members to permanently change the same policy that Madison Camuel was upset about.
In the past, the policy had been enforced inconsistently.
Last year, students in the Bryan Station Middle Spanish Immersion program were playing at Bryan Station High School until district officials told them about the home address policy.
In response to the opposition from those students and their families, the board allowed Bryan Station Middle students in the Spanish Immersion program to play at Bryan Station High School for the 2017-18 school year only.
The broader question of what would happen after 2017-18 and what policy the board would use for other magnet middle school students was decided Monday.
On Monday night, in presenting the 2018-19 athletic handbook, District Athletics Director Rob Sayre noted that it included the consistent requirement that middle school students who "play up" on high school athletic teams must do so at the high school assigned to their home.
Board chairwoman Melissa Bacon said the decision was a recommendation of the district athletic director and high school athletic directors and was also the recommendation "that comes to us from" the Kentucky High School Athletic Association.
"While it might be inconvenient, I'm really sorry , it would cause a whole host of issues” if the policy were to be changed, Bacon said.
Soult on Monday said she was advocating for all children in the Spanish immersion program, not just hers. She noted that Spanish Immersion students make a commitment to the district's program in kindergarten, thereby making a commitment to attend Bryan Station Middle and High School. Although her home address is assigned to Tates Creek High School, she told board members Monday, her children consider Bryan Station Middle and High their “home” school.
“We made a commitment to that program to continue the program through their senior year,” Soult said.
She said students would have to give up sports that are only offered at the high school level such as baseball, softball, swimming, and soccer, which are not offered at the middle school.
Soult said students from all over Fayette County attend the Bryan Station Middle Spanish Immersion program.
"You are going to force students out of the program which is not fair to the students, or the families or the program," said Soult.
Soult said the board was putting Bryan Station Senior High School -- already the district's smallest high school -- at a disadvantage because all Bryan Station Middle students could not play there.
"It just seems like a lack of commitment to the program," she said of the board’s vote.
School board member Doug Barnett voted against approving the handbook, he said, for the reasons that Soult raised. The final board vote was 4-1.
"It certainly is about the only decision they could make that would comply with the existing state rules," KHSAA Commissioner Julian Tackett told the Herald-Leader.