The Prince George's County Board of Education last night approved cuts in athletic programs, including a 50 percent reduction in junior varsity sports, and also approved a strict new discipline policy for students found with weapons in the schools.
The athletic program cuts will save $382,000 and were among the economy measures forced by the $35 million cut in the overall school budget voted by the County Council.
Besides halving the number of junior varsity games, the school board cut three and a half assistant coach positions from the athletics payroll in basketball, soccer, tennis and track. The cuts will also eliminate four games from the varsity baseball and softball schedules, two from varsity basketball and one soccer game per season.
No change was made in the 10-game varsity football schedule, which makes money for the school system.
The board left open the possibility of charging each student playing a varsity sport a participation fee of $10 to $15.
One proposal to achieve the needed budget reductions would have eliminated the entire JV sports program, which benefits younger players and those unable to make the varsity teams. Tom Paskalidis, supervisor of athletics, said the school board balked at the suggestion.
"I'm sure that in their infinite wisdom they realized the value of the junior varsity program," said Paskalidis.
In a separate action, the board voted unanimously that a school principal must recommend expulsion of every student who is found carrying a prohibited weapon in the schools. That principal's recommendation, which traditionally carries great weight in disciplinary matters, goes to the school superintendent.
The discipline policy approved last night was an amended version of an earlier, controversial proposal that would have required permanent expulsion of any student found in a school with a weapon, drugs or alcohol.
The new Prince George's policy is the strictest in the Washington area.
"I think it's going to make a big difference," said board member Angelo Castelli, who introduced the original proposal.