Sports by the numbers

Jacob Lane · Wednesday, March 15, 2017
The school board received the latest on student participation as well as approved a calendar for the 2017/18 school year during its meeting Monday, March 6.

To begin, WLCSD Activities Director James Laughlin reviewed participation in sports and fine arts in the high school.

Perhaps the most interesting take-a-way: in the last five years,girls participation is at an all time high in sports while boys participation has dropped.

“It’s a pretty good drive by the girls, I’m not sure why the boys fell by five percent,” said Laughlin. When asked for any theories, he noted small class sizes in previous years.

The report reads that in 2012/13 as much as 71.5 percent of boys were in sports, but that dropped to 59.3 percent for the 2015/16 school year. That’s 108 of 182 boys.

On the flip side, only 43.3 percent of girls were in sports for the 2012/13 school year, but that number climbed to 58.9 percent for 2015/16. That’s 116 of 197 girls.

Soccer has seen the biggest boost in popularity since in recent years. It has had the most dramatic increase of participation from girls, going from 21 members in 2012 to 37 in 2015.

Meanwhile, for the 2014/15 school year boys soccer had the second biggest turnout of athletes at 44. It was behind football with a participation of 57 members.

No other numbers really compared to the top two, although in 2015/16 volleyball had 28 members, boys basketball 28, wrestling 22, and in 2014/15 boys track 21, baseball 32 and softball 22.

In general, football, volleyball, boys basketball, wrestling, soccer, softball and baseball seem to be the sports of choice at West Liberty High School.

Sports such as track and golf received moderate attention while participation has dropped in cross country and girls basketball. However, track did have a boost in girls participation.

Director Laughlin compared participation from students in the free/reduced lunch program (an indicator of poverty for WLCSD) versus students classified as English Language Learners (ELL).

“I think it goes across the board that we have more free/reduced participation then ELL,” he said, noting football and volleyball as examples.

Perhaps some of the drop off in sports participation can be accredited to fine arts, where band, choir, cheerleading and dance have taken strides upwards in the last few years.

The ‘vocal’ part of the music department has shown impressive numbers. It was already at a school high in 2011/12 with 99 members, it has ballooned to 122 members in 2014/15.

Also, band has gone up from 39 members in 2013/14 to 51 members in 2014/15. There were 25 cheerleaders this last year as well as 14 members of dance, neither of which showed any numbers back in 2011/12.

After going through the numbers Director Laughlin was asked about ways the school is trying to increase participation across the board.

“At coaches meeting we definitely talk about how we can get more participation by anybody,” he said, specifically bringing up that free/reduced and ELL crowd.

“We hear a lot of excuses like ‘I got to work,’ ‘I have to take care of my younger brothers and sisters,’” he added. “We’re always talking about that, but I don’t know if there’s any concrete ways.”

Next, the board approved a calendar for the 2017/18 school year, which includes a winter break Dec. 1-Jan. 2 and a spring break March 26-29.

The District Leadership Team (DLT) has been presenting a series of calendar drafts to the school board; however, it was draft eight that was ultimately met with approval.

The role of spring break, including its impact on student academics, activities and home life, brought on a lot of discussion this go around.

Reasons for a spring break: a week off for family travel which also occurs around the same time of nearby school districts and universities. It also gives students a chance to participate in betterment projects.

Reasons against spring break: it disrupts the academic flow of students as well as class scheduling. It also forces parents to find childcare for a week while they work.

While nothing concrete has been laid out for the future of spring break, the DLT brought up the idea of having it every other year.

Either way, there will be a spring break during the 2017/18 school year thanks to draft eight, which wasn’t included in draft two.

School Board President Chris Martin made it clear why calendar draft two, which was unanimously recommended by the DLT, didn’t get approval from the school board.

“I just want to make it clear we didn’t say no to that calendar,” she said, stating the board wanted to insure that teachers and the community had an opportunity to have their voices heard.

“We really just wanted some more information,” she added. “If it’s the best calendar then it’s the best calendar and we accept that.”

Superintendent Steve Hanson and Deb Weiss, representing the DLT, informed the council that the calendar had been shared with staff.

The question as to why West Liberty seems to have such unique difficulty building a calendar was brought up again by the board, to which Superintendent Steve Hanson explained.

“We count by hours but we schedule 180 students days,” he said simply, “That’s about 50 hours over what we have to have.”

Basically, every school district in Iowa is required to have a minimum of 1,080 instructional hours per year. While WLCSD counts in hours, it still honors the 180 total school day model.

That meansfor several years, including this upcoming one, the West Liberty School District schedules 1,132 hours, which is 52 more hours than required.

“We could cut three days from our calendar and still meet state minimum,” he added. The state changed the requirement a few years ago:

“We were already above the standard and didn’t see any reason to lower our standard down to the state minimum, so we just remained at 180 six-sand-a-half hour days,” said Hanson.

The 2017/18 school year will begin Aug. 23 and end on June 1, provided there are no cancellations due to snow throughout the year.

In other news…

-WLCSD will hire two new staff positions, a drumline instructor for the high school band and a K-8 counselor. The school board insured this does not interfere with future discussion about adding a nurse.

-Marci Goulette brought up the importance of paraprofessionals and the amount of work they do during public correspondence, in preparation for upcoming salary and wage negotiations with the board.

-Upcoming overnight trips by WLHS track team in the Drake Relays April 26-29 and the State Track Meet May 18-20 were approved by the board.

-Coach to student ratios were discussed by the board, with attention to the number of coaches involved in middle school sports.

-A pubic hearing regarding the Fiscal Year 2018 budget for WLCSD will be held Monday, April 3, during the school board meeting. The budget will be in the March 16 edition of the WL Index.

-The board entered into two separate closed sessions, the first regarding the purchase or sale of real estate, the second to evaluate the professional competency of an individual whose appointment, hiring performance or discharge is being considered.
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