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High school sports open to eight-graders in fall

Friday, July 12, 2013

By PAUL COLLINS – Bulletin Staff Writer

Eighth-graders in Henry County Schools will be eligible to try out for high school athletic teams in 2013-14.

That’s according to Garrett Dillard, the school division’s coordinator of regional alternative and student athletics, who gave a report to the Henry County School Board on Thursday.

Last school year, eighth-graders could try out only if there were not enough high school players to field a team. That was the case with 10 high school teams, he said.

Also, there were limits last year on how many eighth-graders could participate per team/sport, generally two or three. Principals, coaches and parents had to approve participation by eighth-graders, Dillard said.

In 2013-14, eighth-grade participation will be based on performance with open tryouts and no limit on participation, Dillard said.

Factors affecting the adjustments are that middle schools have limited sports schedules, and there has been decreased participation in high school athletics due to student-athletes specializing in one sport.

Dillard also said countywide training will be held for all middle/high school coaches, and coaches will attend one session per year. Goals include creating a culture of best practices for coaches, creating consistency, establishing/reiterating expectations of coaches and increasing sportsmanship in all areas of play/participation, he said.

Training will be offered July 22 at Bassett High School and July 29 at Magna Vista, both at 6:30 p.m., he said.

Also new in the upcoming year is a pledge program, in which students must pledge to not use, possess or distribute alcohol, tobacco or illegal or synthetic drugs while participating in sports with the county schools. The program is designed to bring attention to the dangers of drug use, ensure safety of student-athletes and to transition into a drug-testing program, Dillard said.

Each student-athlete and a parent will be required to sign the pledge. Parents and students will receive information at the parent meeting before each season. The pledge will be available on the school division’s website.

Also at Thursday’s meeting, the school board recognized Gracie Agnew, principal of Magna Vista High School, who recently was named the 2013 Outstanding High School Principal of Virginia by the Virginia Association of Secondary School Principals (VASSP). Designated a state winner in the MetLife/NAASP National Principal of the Year program, Agnew is in the running for the National Principal of the Year award, a VASSP news release said.

School Board Vice Chairman Betsy Mattox, who presided over the meeting, told Agnew, “You have certainly brought wonderful recognition to your school, the school division and Henry County.”

The school board also honored Magna Vista High School for being one of 64 schools nationwide, and one of two in Virginia, to be recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as Green Ribbon Schools. The Green Ribbon Schools program recognizes energy-efficient and environmentally friendly schools with programs that promote environmental awareness and literacy, community engagement and student wellness, according to a release.

“Magna Vista High has reduced its energy usage by 25 percent since 2009, saving taxpayers nearly $250,000, and earning the school EPA Energy Star certification in 2012,” the release stated. “Magna Vista High’s horticulture and agriculture teachers have developed outdoor learning areas — including gardens, landscaping beds and livestock areas — that feature native plants that do not require watering beyond normal rainfall. The school’s wildlife-friendly landscaping provides cover and shelter for turkeys, groundhogs, deer and other native species. Magna Vista High partners with the Dan River Basin Association to raise and release native trout. The school also purchases much of its produce from local growers.”

In other business, the school board:

• Approved one-year support for Warrior Tech Academy at a cost of $101,200. The school within a school will open this fall at Magna Vista High School and focus on project-based learning. The support includes resources of the New Tech Network.

Schools Superintendent Jared Cotton said there is a waiting list of students wanting to attend Warrior Tech Academy. School officials had hoped to start with 100 rising ninth-graders, and about 107 have applied, including some students from private schools, he said.

• Approved a contract with the University of Virginia to offer an adolescent literacy course to secondary school teachers at a cost of $18,900.

• Selected school board Chairman Joe DeVault as voting delegate and Mattox as alternate to represent the school division at the Virginia School Boards Association (VSBA) Delegate Assembly and Regional Meeting of the 2013 VSBA/Virginia Association of School Superintendents Annual Convention.

• Received a number of reports, one of which was an energy and facilities report. It showed the Magna Vista High School Warrior Tech project, Bassett High School phase one renovations, and Rich Acres Elementary lighting and ceiling upgrade were all on schedule and the Axton Elementary roof coating project was scheduled to begin July 8.

It also showed the school division’s energy conservation program, in its fourth year, avoided $1,700,970 in costs from Feb. 1, 2010, through April 1, 2013. Administrative and other overhead costs have not been deducted from that figure.

• Awarded a $19,000 contract to Pepsi Beverages Co. of Danville to provide bottled water for school cafeterias.

• Approved updates to certain school board policies on first reading. The proposed revisions bring policies into compliance with new and existing laws and regulations. In addition, a few policies are being revised for editorial reasons or to correct technical errors.

DeVault and Blackberry District school board member Rudy Law did not attend the meeting.

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