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Struggling Texas district institutes temporary sports ban

Trustees of the Premont Independent School District last week signed an agreement with the Texas Education Agency allowing the underperforming district to stay open through December.

Premont is a town of nearly 2,700 about 65 miles southwest of Corpus Christi. The district has about 700 students.

The Corpus Christi Caller-Times reported Wednesday that Premont in 2011 earned the state’s lowest rating, of unacceptable, for the second time in three years.

Superintendent Ernest Singleton said the ban on athletics will start following the end of this basketball season and run through the start of the 2012-13 basketball season.

“Our urgent situation requires swift and drastic action,” Singleton said in a story posted on the Caller-Times website.

The students thus will go without baseball, tennis and track this spring, and football and volleyball in the fall.

Singleton said the district should save $50,000 this spring by dropping sports and using the money for two new science labs. He said going without sports in the fall would bring another $50,000 in savings that could be used toward school repairs and to raise teacher salaries. Other extracurricular activities, such as fine arts, are not affected by the cuts.

Suzanne Marchman, spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency, which gave the district its poor ratings, told the Caller-Times that the state understands the district has tough choices to make and that Singleton must do what he deems best for the district.

“We absolutely know that there are benefits that come with participating in athletics, but there are also some costs,” Marchman told the paper. “Some of those are financial — the cost to run buses to games, uniforms, providing meals — and then also it takes (students) out of the classroom, and obviously academics is another area the district needs to focus on.”

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