Prince William School Superintendent Richard Johnson asked the School Board last week to consider raising the academic requirements for students participating in extracurricular activities, particularly athletics.
The current policy, set by the Virginia High School League, requires that students maintain a passing (D) grade in four subjects in order to participate in extracurricular activities. In addition, the league requires that students' grades be checked twice a year after each semester.
Johnson told the board he has asked Assistant Superintendent Dr. William Cox to prepare a new policy but declined later to say what minimum standards he wishes to see included.
"My main concern at this point is that the current policy requires that a student's grade be checked only after each semester. That means he or she could be playing in a particular sport for a full season with failing grades," Johnson said. "I think we should be interested in a child's progress more than twice a year no matter what activity he's involved in."
According to school officials, a study done last year for the board showed that nearly 95 percent of Prince William's 115,000 high school students are achieving at the "C" level or above.
Dumfries school representative Maureen Caddigan asked that the school administration find out how many students would be affected by the new policy. "I expect it will be only a handful, but I think we should know," she said.
Johnson said that he does not want to "drastically affect" a child's ability to participate in extracurricular activities. "The most important thing the children should be doing right now is being good students," he said. "I want to give them an incentive."
The board will consider the new policy Nov. 20.
The board also heard a plea from Prince William Education Association President Gerald Hart, a Featherstone Elementary School teacher, to give back the time the administration took from teachers in October to use as in-service days that has traditionally been used for teacher workdays. Referring to the $2,000 raise teachers received this year, Hart said, "It seems when the schools give us something, historically they take something away."
According to a poll taken by the group, Hart said, most of the association's nearly 1,500 teachers said the in-service day, designed to improve instruction methods, was a "waste of time." Until this year teachers had one in-service day each school year and six workdays in which they made long-range plans and graded students' work.
Under the new policy, a portion of four of the six workdays will be used as in-service time, he said. Most teachers resent having to take work home over the weekend to be prepared for the next grading period, Hart said.