TMHS to get intramural sports in '08

More complete activities program planned for 2009

Posted: Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The final plan for the community's new Thunder Mountain High School recommends intramural sports for the first year and a comprehensive athletics and activities program that will be launched in 2009.

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Until the release of this report, which came out late Monday night, school planners said a full complement of sports and extracurricular activities would be available when the Mendenhall Valley school opens in fall 2008.

Under the final plan, the district's Secondary Planning Committee recommended an after-school and weekend intramural activities program during the school's first year. This would include students spending their lunch hour playing Monopoly and chess or joining the lunchtime tennis and dodge ball clubs, according to the report called "Opening Thunder Mountain and Implementing the Next Generation High School Plan."

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"I want to be clear. This is a one-year caveat," said Patti Bippus, TMHS principal and Secondary Planning Committee member.

TMHS will offer competitive traveling teams starting the second year, she said.

School planners contacted Tuesday could not say at this point what sports would be offered starting in 2009.

The plan, which includes academic plans and covers both the new school and the existing Juneau-Douglas High School, is up for consideration by the Juneau School Board at its Dec. 18 meeting. The plan includes three academies, two at Thunder Mountain and one at Juneau-Douglas. The plan also calls for all freshmen to be in small learning communities and have a closed campus.

School Board President Andi Story said she and the rest of the board will continue to listen to public comment at the first and second readings of the proposal.

"The board could adjust," she said. "There is still a month left."

If the School Board accepts the recommendations, TMHS will open with a choice of sports that include flag football, basketball, skiing and marksmanship, alongside activities such as National Honor Society, Model U.N. and Art Club.

The decision came Sunday after a compromise was offered by members of the task force exploring activities funding.

The decision was primarily one of money. The new high school will not have the money to build a six-sport program in 2008 as earlier thought, Bippus said.

Considering the funding issues, the compromise plan will offer more sporting and activities than an interscholastic program would have.

Competition will be between fellow students, she said.

As late as Friday, when the report was originally due, several School Board members said they expected the plan from the school district to include a dual sports program the first year.

Last week Bippus said that a dual sports program and a full offering of activities were needed to attract students to the new high school. At the time, she said, interscholastic sports were integral to her vision of creating a TMHS cultural identity.

The committee's recommendation of a toned-down sports program comes on the heels of a November school district poll that said 77 percent of parents with children in the Juneau School District favored equal programs for TMHS.

Bippus said task force members Amy Skilbred and Reed Stoops told the committee they would find a way to finance dual sports starting in 2009.

"I'm willing to compromise if that's going to be the case," Bippus said.

"We're hoping to figure it out in a way that the community can get behind," Skilbred said.

The School Board faces a choice to have an equal and equitable sports program start in 2009 after the task force develops a funding scheme to pay for a citywide sports and activities program.

"It's not out of line with what the [School] Board recommended last June," Skilbred said.

Some estimate a dual program will cost $3.5 million a year.

The November poll showed 65 percent of parents favored a half-percent sales tax increase to pay for dual sports and activities in Juneau high schools. Skilbred said the task force hasn't considered where to seek funds yet.

It's planning to produce a base line for what the city and the school district would pay for, she said.

The school district recommended a budget of $79,400 to fund the lunchtime and after-school intramural activity programs.

Bippus has high hopes for the quality of the activities offered and said advisers and coaches will be paid accordingly.

"It has to be wonderful. Otherwise we don't have anything to offer them," Bippus said.

• Contact Greg Skinner at 523-2258 or greg.skinner@juneauempire.com.



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