Polk County Schools approves sixth grade athletics participation

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, October 11, 2016

COLUMBUS – At their monthly board meeting Oct. 10, the Polk County School Board unanimously approved allowing sixth graders in the system to participate in athletics.

This approval comes after the state board of education decided in August to allow sixth graders to play all sports, except for football as prohibited by law, in the middle schools as part of a change to the board’s Interscholastic Athletics Policy.

The policy was being revised to reflect “the inclusion of charter school students in interscholastic participation as they are public school students,” according to the N.C. Department of Instruction. Additionally, the choice was left to the local school boards as to whether to allow their sixth graders to participate in athletics.

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During the board’s September meeting, Greene presented four resources to the board and discussed with the board how to move forward on making this decision.

These resources included a medical study from the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC), a study conducted by the North Carolina Healthy Schools association on the HRS-D-001 Policy Regarding Interscholastic Athletics, the North Carolina Healthful Living Essential Standards Athletics website and the North Carolina State Board of Education policy on interscholastic athletics.

Greene detailed variables involved with having sixth graders participate in athletics to the board during the September meeting ranging from equipment needs to the physical, mental and emotional attributes of a sixth grader for the board to consider when making their decision.

Board chairman Geoffrey Tennant gave the other members of the board three options as to how to proceed with making a motion. The board could either say no to sixth grade participation altogether, allow participation beginning with the upcoming winter sports or delay participation until the next school year.

Greene made a recommendation to the board to allow sixth graders to participate on a tryout basis, meaning it would be up to the coaches at the middle school to decide whether a sixth grade is mentally and physically fit enough to play their sport because he said he could trust the judgment of the coaches at the middle school in making this decision.

Former Polk County High School athletic director Brandon Schweitzer, who was in attendance at the meeting, branched off Greene’s comments and said he has received mixed reactions from parents in the community as to whether they would allow their sixth grader to participate in athletics.

The board followed and approved Greene’s recommendation unanimously after board member Rick Covil asked what winter sports are left for sixth graders to play outside football, to which Greene and Tennant responded with sports like indoor track, basketball and wrestling.