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Middle school program detailed

Friday, July 11, 2014

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

The Henry County School Board on Thursday endorsed a new middle school activities/athletics program that involves participating in a new athletic conference and offering more after-school activities aimed at non-athletes.

The goal for Henry County Public Schools (HCPS) is “to create a middle school activities/athletics program that will encourage students to explore a variety of extracurricular activities and develop meaningful life skills through participation in activities/athletics at the middle school level,” according to a presentation by Garrett Dillard, the school division’s coordinator of regional alternative and athletics.

Dillard said starting this year, Fieldale-Collinsville and Laurel Park middle schools are becoming part of the Jr. Piedmont District, which also will include Halifax County Middle School; Ben Franklin Middle School in Franklin County; Patrick County Public Schools grades 6-8; Bonner and Westwood middle schools in Danville; and Martinsville Middle School.

Patrick County did not have a middle school program and is creating one. Halifax County Middle School and Ben Franklin Middle School are leaving their conferences to join the new conference, Dillard said.

Joining the new conference will allow F-C and Laurel Park middle schools to play more schools.

In the Henry County schools, middle school sports seasons now will be aligned with high school sports seasons: Girls volleyball now will be played in the fall, and softball and boys soccer will be played in the spring, Dillard said.

Other sports offered at F-C and Laurel Park include football in the fall; girls and boys basketball in the winter; and softball, baseball, boys and girls soccer, and boys and girls track in the spring.

Starting this year, a $4 fee will be charged to people 15 and older for admission to middle school athletic events in HCPS. There will be no charge for students 14 and younger, Dillard said.

There will be no fee for students to participate in sports.

HCPS Superintendent Jared Cotton said he hopes the division will be able to offer the middle school athletics program with funds available in this year’s budget. “If not, we will have to make changes,” he said.

Cotton did not elaborate, and cost figures were not available.

Officials will be monitoring the costs, Cotton said.

To try to reduce costs, such as travel, officials are looking at the possibility of holding some “Saturday jamborees,” where all the schools can compete, and, when competing schools are far apart, meeting at a central location, according to Cotton and Dillard.

“I’m a true believer if you don’t have a good middle school program, you don’t have a good high school program,” said Terri Flanagan, the Horsepasture District representative on the school board.

As for the middle school activities component of the activities/athletics program, Laurel Park and F-C will introduce three new activities during the 2014-15 school year: an outdoor club in the fall, with the help of Henry County Parks and Recreation on programming and equipment; robotics in the winter; and a spring activity that will be determined based on a survey of students, Dillard said.

The fall, winter and spring activity seasons each will last six weeks, two days a week, Dillard said. Activities will be open to all middle school students at no charge.

He added that he hopes the number of activities offered will grow.

Cotton said the school division wants to provide students who don’t participate in athletics with opportunities to take part in after-school extracurricular activities.


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