Garden City High School Principal Steve Nordby on Monday night updated the Garden City USD 457 Board of Education on the school’s eligibility policy for athletics and activities, newly streamlined this year in an attempt to raise standards and create consistency throughout all student programs.

Nordby and GCHS Athletic Director Drew Thon walked the board through six years of reviewing and updating the school’s eligibility policy based on conversations with school program coaches and sponsors, the academic achievement of students in different athletics and activities and studies of eligibility policies across Kansas.

The Kansas State High School Activities Association requires all students participating in its activities to pass five or more academic courses in the prior semester. As of August, the GCHS policy requires weekly eligibility, meaning students' grades are assessed every Friday to determine whether they can participate in the following week’s extracurricular activities, including sporting events, contests and performances.

A student is no longer eligible if they fail two classes. Each season — fall, winter and spring — students are offered a “grace week,” where they are given an extra week to bring up their grades before their eligibility is revoked.

Prior to this year, only athletic students were held to an eligibility policy, resulting in far more failing students in other activities, Nordby told the board. Since establishing the policy, the lists of students in other activities failing has been greatly reduced, he said.

Board President Mark Rude was concerned that the weekly policy was susceptible to many issues and painted students and their experiences with too broad a brush. Shutting a student that was not academically-inclined out of an activity or event built into another class’ curriculum, such as a performing art, seemed wrong, compared to other disciplinary measures, he said.

The policy was necessary, board member Tim Hanigan argued, because it shifted priorities back toward academics. Hanigan, who has long been critical of placing extracurricular activities ahead of academics, said that the policy sent a message to students that participating in activities was a privilege based on academic success.

“You have just made the argument that I have been trying to make, which is if you raise the bar, you will get better performance. So, I’m asking you, why don’t you raise that bar just a tiny bit higher and say ‘You can’t have any F’s’?” Hanigan asked Nordby and Thon.

Rude asked Nordby to be “data-rich” in his approach moving forward with the policy and said the board would revisit it at a later time.


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