After nearly 40 years, Battle Ground’s six middle schools will launch sports programs, thanks to the approval of the recent levy.
Boys basketball will start in January, followed by girls basketball in February. Registration is currently open for seventh and eighth graders who want to sign up for the teams.
Battle Ground Public Schools Deputy Superintendent Shelly Whitten said she was a middle schooler at Amboy when sports were initially cut because of a levy failure.
“Levy dollars pay primarily for extracurricular activities and things that are unfunded at the state level,” Whitten said. “Back in 1982, there was a double levy failure, and at that time, we lost both middle school sports and our buses, so our buses were sold off and we’ve had contract services since.”
Whitten said she is relieved that voters approved the four-year levy in the November general election, since an instability in funding has always been a concern. She said the levy’s approval has been a “huge win for our kids,” since levy dollars help keep kids engaged in school beyond academics.
“I feel like (extracurriculars are) an important thing to maintain a well-rounded education for our kids,” Whitten said.
Director of Student Services Tom Adams said sports will help “fulfill the physical, social-emotional and educational needs of our middle school kids, and also keeps them active and gives them something to do after school.”
Adams said the middle-school level sports will help prepare students for the high school sports programs as well.
According to Whitten, middle school sports contribute to the school’s culture in a positive way.
“Middle school sports do something at a culture-building level that few other things in the school can do, because it’s not only benefitting the kids who come out and play, but it also benefits the kids that come to support their classmates,” she said. “And it gives the kids an age where they’re gaining more independence, (like) the ability to come to events and go to things that keep them engaged in the school rather than having downtime in the afternoon and early evenings where they may or may not have parents home with them.”
To decide what kind of activities the kids were interested in, Adams said the district gathered information from a Title 9 Interest Survey, which is conducted every three years in the high schools.
“We did it for middle school for the first time, that I’m aware of, because we were planning to bring back middle school sports,” Adams said. “We had to look at what kind of interests the students had, what kind of facilities we have, and what we can handle and manage.”
Adams said he presented to the school board, who wanted to move forward with middle school sports, but then the pandemic hit.
“We would’ve started middle school sports last year, but coming out of the February levy failure, we decided to pause because we didn’t want to start a program and then stop it because we couldn’t sustain it,” Adams said.
One of the most in-demand sports is volleyball, which Adams said will be implemented next year. Alterations will be required in the gyms to meet net standards. This year, they’ll start with boys and girls basketball, which will have three weeks of practice and two weeks of games against other middle schools in the district.
In March, the schools will introduce cross country, and a boys and girls soccer program.
Next fall, the schools will offer cross country, girls soccer, and boys basketball, and in the spring following, the schools will add boys soccer and track.
Currently, basketball and soccer will be open to students in seventh and eighth grades, and cross country will be available to students in sixth to eighth grades.
Aside from the sports and buses, the levy will also support staffing costs. Whitten said the district only had one and a half nurses for all of its schools, although they need one at every building. The funding will also be used for art programs, drama programs, and music.
“Those (programs) are things that they grow into in their college life and their adult life, and it becomes a part of who they are as an individual and a whole person,” Whitten said.
Adams added that the levy dollars also provide transportation for field trips.
Two student board representatives from Prairie High School were involved in the levy process, and Whitten said students are “appreciative and (I) certainly see some signs from students that say, ‘thank you for supporting us.’”
For more information on middle school sports registration, go online to battle
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