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Update: Juneau school board votes to ban middle school athletics travel

Posted: September 10, 2013 - 7:46pm  |  Updated: September 10, 2013 - 11:03pm
Floyd Dryden Middle School students Teaka Carro, 13, left, Jordan Erickson, 14, and Leah Kleinman, 12, present a petition to the Juneau School District Board of Education Tuesday evening at the board's public meeting. The petition was signed by 350 of their classmates in favor of maintaining out-of-town sports travel. Middle school students from the Juneau Youth Football League, also in attendance, look on in the background.  Michael Penn | Juneau Empire
Michael Penn | Juneau Empire
Floyd Dryden Middle School students Teaka Carro, 13, left, Jordan Erickson, 14, and Leah Kleinman, 12, present a petition to the Juneau School District Board of Education Tuesday evening at the board's public meeting. The petition was signed by 350 of their classmates in favor of maintaining out-of-town sports travel. Middle school students from the Juneau Youth Football League, also in attendance, look on in the background.

The tradition of Juneau middle school sports teams traveling out of town for competitions will come to an end with this school year.

The Juneau School District Board of Education voted 4-3 Tuesday to adopt a policy change that bans middle school athletics travel. Previously, individual schools made travel decisions on a case-by-case basis.

“It’s important we focus and turn our attention to budget issues,” said Sally Saddler, president of the board, who voted in favor of the ban. “It’s about our core mission. As resources decline and we retrench… we have to think ‘what’s our core mission?’”

Few, if any, in the crowded Juneau-Douglas High School library agreed with the four board members who voted to approve the change.

“I have yet to hear a single voice in favor of this policy — all are strongly against it — so who does a ‘yes’ vote represent?” Floyd Dryden Middle School Principal Tom Milliron asked the board. “A ‘no’ vote represents our students, parents and community.”

Local business owner Wade Bryson told the board the community should have the option to pay for their middle schools’ teams travel.

“Please do not tell parents and small businesses what we will and will not support,” said Bryson, a parent to several Juneau School District students. “If we ban travel to other Southeast cities, it will only be a matter of time before they stop coming here.”

The lack of competition stems athletes’ development and enjoyment of competing for championships, he added.

One middle school student presented the board with a list of 350 students who signed a petition urging the board to continue allowing middle school sports teams to travel, and many others highlighted the merits of middle school sports travel.

Others lambasted the board for not heeding the public’s opinion and putting on a “façade” of public involvement.

The issue stems from concerns over equity between Floyd Dryden Middle School and Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School because only Floyd Dryden teams were traveling.

It was requested that the board make a policy decision on the matter so individual schools had guidance on what was the best course of action.

“Each school should have the ability to make funding decisions about what best fits its students,” said board member Lisa Worl, who opposed the ban.

She added that school budgets are “at their limits” so traveling sports should be responsible for all costs of the trip, including substitute teachers to replace the traveling coaches.

Board member Destiny Sargeant suggested adding a sunset date to the policy change so the issue could be re-evaluated in 2016, but the board rejected that.

Barbara Thurston of the board urged her colleagues to shelve the issue for a few months so advocates could have the chance to provide the board alternative plans, but that effort also failed.

“We don’t have to do this today,” Thurston said.

Still the board acted, and Superintendent Glenn Gelbrich supports the decision.

Some community members did contact school officials supporting the change, but those people typically did not want to state their stance publicly, he added.

“It’s a tough compromise,” Gelbrich said. “There isn’t a way to get around that when we leave town we take students and teachers out of the classroom.”

• Contact reporter Matt Woolbright at matthew.woolbright@juneauempire.com or at 523-2243.

The original story read:

Starting next school year, middle school sports trips will officially be a thing of the past.

The Juneau School District Board of Education voted 4-3 in favor of a change to the current policy which allowed individual schools to decide on allowing trips.

Now, teams will not be allowed to travel for competition, even if trips are wholly paid for by fundraising.

Board members voted to approve the change in front of more than 100 opponents to the measure. Those voting for the change said the decision was based on prioritizing resources and providing equal opportunities for students.

No non-board members spoke in favor of the change.

This developing story will be updated.

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