All four of the District's vocational high schools will eliminate their athletic programs in September, although students at the schools still may participate in sports at other schools.
Otho Jones, assistant superintendent of the Division of Career Development Programs for the D.C. Public Schools, said yesterday the approximately 300 students who usually participate in athletics at Bell, Chamberlain, Phelps and M.M. Washington Vocational may participate in athletics at the school where they are enrolled for academic classes. The vocational schools no longer will offer academic subjects, but will concentrate strictly on career development programs.
"What is being offered is a program--city wide--that allows the student to obtain his high school diploma and a certificate in an area of trade specialization," Jones said. "The students attend one school for their academic studies and a vocational school of their choice for their career development studies. Any student who wishes to participate in athletics can do so at the school where he takes his academic work."
Vocational schools have had a tradition of quality teams and players. In the early 1960s, Bell dominated the Interhigh League in football, and as recently as the mid-1970s, Bell, Phelps and Chamberlain had outstanding basketball teams. In recent years, however, fewer students went out for sports, and the schools had difficulty competing against the District's larger high schools.
"Even though the vocational schools weren't big winners lately, it did give those students a chance to participate," said Otto Jordan, the athletic director for the D.C. Public Schools. "Now, five students from Phelps may take five spots from five students at Spingarn. Other students may become discouraged from playing."
Jordan said he has revised the Interhigh's football schedule to accommodate the 11-team league. The elimination of Phelps and Chamberlain leaves only five schools in the East Division. Bell dropped football last year, leaving six schools in the West Division.
Jordan's new plan calls for two cross-division games by every team. The East Division's wins and losses will count as league games. The West Division's cross-division games will count as nonleague.
Vinna Freeman, supervising director of health, physical education, athletics and safety for the D.C. Public Schools, said the elimination of the vocational schools' athletic programs will add a few dollars to an already small athletic budget and ease scheduling difficulties at several fields and gymnasiums.
"Most of the games were at other schools because the vocational schools didn't have the necessary facilities," Freeman said, "so that helps relieve some of the burden on both the facilities and the schools' administrators.
"Since the schools weren't fielding as many teams as the bigger schools, they weren't getting as much money, anyway. The few dollars saved will be spread out among the other schools. It's not enough to even mention."
Freeman said many vocational school coaches taught at other schools and may be able to join other coaching staffs. In the past few years, the status of the vocational schools' athletic programs has been in doubt and administrators had problems finding coaches. Several teams were coached by classroom teachers with little or no coaching experience.
"We tried to keep the athletic programs alive but the participants had been dwindling the past few years," Jones said. "The students are getting the best of two worlds here. They are able to develop a trade career, get their academics and play sports if they choose."