An Omaha school board member said he's been getting a lot of feedback from parents and people in sports about his idea to require students to maintain a minimum grade-point average to participate in extracurricular activities.
Most people, Justin Wayne said, thought such a requirement already existed. But it will take care to craft and implement a policy in a way that doesn't keep students from attending school, he said.
The key, he said, is to have enough support, such as tutoring for students who might be getting close to dropping below a minimum GPA.
Wayne also called for a one-time waiver for students who suffer a hardship, such as a death in the family, and show slumps in grades as a result. Ideally, he said, waivers would be granted by academic coaches, athletic coaches and principals.
Wayne said he recognizes that extracurricular activities can motivate some students to stay in school. Two people to whom he was close growing up didn't make the basketball team for reasons having to do with academics. They dropped out of high school.
“That's why I think it's important we have clear expectations ... and we also provide the support to make them successful,” he said.
Wayne, who is seeking re-election, said the idea was prompted by discussions he had with college coaches while traveling last summer with his youth program, the Midwest Trailblazers. He later talked to the athletes, who come from schools throughout the city.
He introduced the idea Monday at a school board committee meeting. More Omaha Public Schools athletes should be going to college to play sports, he said at the meeting, but they don't have the grades.
Current NCAA rules require a 2.0 GPA for entering freshman athletes, and that will rise to 2.3 in 2015.
Board President Marian Fey asked Wayne to work with other board members and develop a policy.
Chris Proulx, president of the Omaha Education Association, said he's also been reaching out to coaches across the school district. By and large, he said, they're supportive of ensuring all students do well in the classroom.
“But I think there's still a lot of conversation about where that line should be drawn and how a policy should be implemented,” Proulx said.
He plans to talk next week with officials from the Nebraska School Activities Association, which sets its own rules for extracurricular activities.
Currently the NSAA requires students — excluding freshmen — to obtain 20 hours of credit toward their schools' graduation requirements the semester before they participate.
“Ultimately we want all of our students everywhere in the state held to a fair standard,” Proulx said.
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