The Fairfax County School Board is scheduled to respond tonight to a request to give the county's 21 intermediate schools the "right to challenge other intermediate schools to athletic contests," a move that would require changing a long-standing policy.
At a recent meeting, the board was asked by George Lowrance, PTA president at Whittier Intermediate School in Falls Church, to consider changing the policy that prohibits interscholastic athletic competition among intermediate schools.
Lowrance said, and others close to the school agreed, that in the past accasional, but unofficial, athletic competition against other intermediate schools developed "school pride" which helped ease student problems at Whittier.
Last year, when the board discovered that Whittier and several other intermediate schools were competing athletically, it reaffirmed the longstanding policy prohibiting such competition.
Present board policy limits intermediate school students to intramural athletics except for fall and spring field days in which participation is optional. During field days no scores are kept or awards given to winners.
"I have mixed feelings (above Lowrance's request)," said new board member J. Roger Teller. "As a parent with a son at Glasgow Intermediate who played on their basketball team before I knew no competition was allowed I was in favor of the competition.
"But as a board member, where do we draw the line with funds? Eventually, as the program grows, it becomes a financial problem with supplements for coaches involved and financial support for the program."
Lowrance said he would "very definitey" find acceptable a school board ruling saying schools could compete without any financial support from the county.
"Schools would be required to cover their own expenses," Lowrance said. "We are not proposing a full-blown schedule, only three or four games. We would not put a school into the position of having to participate. We just want a rule established that schools could play if they want do."
Whittier, which draws students from a wide variety of socio-economic backgrounds, had vandalism, racial and drug-related problems in the early '70s, according to sources close to the school. The school now has one of the county's lowest vandalism rates (20 cents per child) and last year's student government raised $4,000 to provide carpeting in the school.
Parents and school officials say the limited sports program in the past helped bring about these changes by improving school pride.
"We have math and English teams that compete against other schools and they are fine for academic students," Lowrance said. "Why do we let our strong academic students perform, but decline to let our less academic, more athletic students perform?
"Athletic teams are often an attraction for less academically inclined students . . . Having athletic events would also give the school a chance to teach students how to act at sporting events," he said.
Not all intermediate school officials are convinced that athletic competition would be benefical to their schools.
"I'd like to have a few things for when the students go to high school," said Dr. Henry York, principal of Frost Intermediate School in Fairfax. "We have a strong intramural program that is in keeping with the intermediate school's philosophy of not taking students outside of the school for activities."
Dr. RRoy I. Brooks, principal of Luther Jackson Intermediate School in Merrifield, said he doesn't "want to see the interrmediate schools made into small high schools. I want them to be unique."