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Empire Editorial: Report sheds light on middle school sports travel ban

Posted: December 27, 2013 - 1:09am

The community group charged with coming up with alternative solutions that would prevent a permanent ban on middle school sports travel is expected to have its proposal ready in time for the February Juneau Board of Education meeting.

The group — led by community member Jon Kurland, who is spearheading the effort — has completed its draft report and is now looking to community members for feedback before the final plan moves forward.

The group of volunteers has looked into more than a dozen issues brought forward by the school board and Floyd Dryden and Dzantik’i Heeni middle schools. What’s interesting about the group’s report is the number of issues being looked into that were never mentioned during school board meetings.

Members of our community have heard whispers about the real reasons sports travel was banned, and sources within the school district have confirmed with the Empire that there are additional concerns as to why middle school sports travel is going away.

Attendees at past school board meetings heard about the struggle of managing sports travel administratively with reduced office staffs. They also heard about the board’s desire to have equality between the two middle schools, and the concerns of having teachers removed from classrooms in a way that academics might suffer.

The stakeholder committee looked into those issues, plus a few others that were never brought up publicly but should have been. Among the new ones was the role of volunteers working with sports programs and whether or not coaches were fit to be traveling with student athletes for out-of-town trips.

Problems involving volunteers and coaches were never brought up in public meetings.

For months parents, students and coaches have wondered about the actual reasons (all of them) that led to a seemingly rushed decision to ban all middle school sports travel, despite heavy protest from the community. It’s only now that a clearer picture is coming into focus.

If there were, in fact, suitability issues in the past with parent volunteers and coaches during trips with student athletes, it is both the schools’ and district’s responsibility to address those problems — openly and directly. To ban middle school sports travel because the district is concerned about the adequacy of volunteers and coaches is punishing youth rather than dealing with the adults in charge.

When the stakeholder committee hands its report to the school board in February, we hope what follows next will be an open, honest and transparent conversation about the core issues that led to the ban. Essentially, we’d like to hear the public conversation that should have taken place months ago when the topic first came up.

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