With plans to investigate the possibility for future sponsorships of other sports not offered by the district, the board of education voted Tuesday to honor a request for district sponsorship of one high school student looking to participate in a diving competition.
Bridgewater parent Karie Coe said at a July board of education meeting that she is the one who requested a diving program for her daughter. She said there is no dive team in Bridgewater, and there is one event in the state with very high qualifying scores needed to participate.
Coe said she is not looking for the district to offer an entire dive team, just to have someone accompany her daughter to the meet.
“You have to have a qualifying score to go to the competition, and at most it’s two meets,” she said at the July meeting. “You’re not going to have a problem with 40 kids [wanting to be on the team] because there aren’t going to be that many qualifying.”
Since then, the board has been discussing whether it should move forward with a policy to address diving as well as other sports that are not offered at the high school, but for which students have expressed interest, namely bowling and fencing.
Daniel Petrozelli, board member and chairman of the policy committee, said they came up with four different options about how to proceed with the request.
The first option, Petrozelli said, is to allow students to be sponsored for NJSIAA tournaments, with the understanding that the student would pay the $100 activity fee, while the district would choose an advisor and pay for that advisor. The parent would also have to sign a waiver and provide transportation to the event, while the district would pay the entrance fee.
This option would require a policy be written.
“But the concerns for bowling and fencing is it’s a limited number that can go, and we would have to bring that down by a lottery,” Petrozelli said. “There might be as many as 80 bowlers in the district.”
The second option, Petrozelli said, would be that the district provides the opportunity for tournaments so long as the events are connected to programs that are already offered in the district. So, he said, the student wanting to dive would have to join the swim team, and no additional advisor would be necessary.
“But the YMCA [where the team practices] cannot accommodate diving,” he said. “So the diver would have to go to swim practice, but couldn’t practice diving.”
And in this option, the bowlers and fencers would not be considered at all.
A third option, Petrozelli said, would have elements of the first option, and would include district funds for bowling and fencing for both boys and girls.
This would also require a policy.
In the final option, Petrozelli said, the board would make an immediate motion to allow the student who has already made the request to participate in the diving competition with the parents paying for tournament expenses and a district-sponsored advisor. And in the meantime, he said, the board could look into the possibility of creating a new policy.
“If we went with this, we would still look to create a policy moving forward for future situations,” he said. “Policies take months to create, and there’s a time constraint in this particular case.”
Petrozelli said there is also the possibility of increased liability for the district because there is no policy in place.
Superintendent of Schools Michael Schilder said the district’s insurance officials said the liability won’t be an issue.
“But there is more exposure when you don’t have a policy to back you up,” he said.
Still, the board opted to go with the final option to provide the opportunity to the student who has already requested it. And they will begin to work on a policy to deal with future cases.
“One of the things that came up to the committee was we could be opening doors because we offer all but three sports,” said board member Ann Marie Mead. “We understood to be the general feeling that there is interest in fencing and bowling, so if we did this for diving, then we would open it up for bowling and fencing as well.”
Mead said the issue will have to go to the finance committee as well to determine whether there is money available in the budget to support the new sports.
“I am pleased that we would open the door for other sports,” said board member Arvind Mathur. “I think this is positive.”
Basically, the board felt they could not risk delaying the situation for the one diving student because of how long it can take to put a policy in place.
“We wanted to see the opportunity, but we wanted to have the district policy too to be able to treat other special situations and treat them fairly,” said board of education vice president Patrick Breslin. “The idea was that if everybody here supported it, we would back the last option and follow it up with the committee working on solidifying an ongoing policy to be used for other situations.”
Board members agreed that they do not want to rush a policy through, but would like to help the one student.
Board member Cindy Cullen suggested that the decision apply to all students who might want to participate in the upcoming diving competition, so long as they qualify, and many board members agreed.
“It seems unfair to other students who would be interested in going to this particular competition,” she said. “It doesn’t hurt to open it if there are people interested in this event.”
And from here, the finance committee will look into the other sports, namely fencing and bowling, and determine how much the district can absorb from a budgetary standpoint. The policy committee will also look into board procedures for these circumstances.
Breslin said the future policy probably will not apply to a particular sport, but will be written generally to apply for future circumstances such as those for the diving student.