Athletic transfer is a game we don’t want to play
Jeff Davis Parish (JDP) is one of the high-ranking school districts in the state and not many would disagree that students in this area receive excellent educations.
However, some families, especially those with students attending smaller schools, often express disappointment that their children do not have the same athletic opportunities as those at larger schools such as Jennings, Lake Arthur and Welsh.
Wednesday, the Jennings Daily News reported on a discussion that took place Tuesday between JDP School Board members about the pros and cons of allowing students to transfer out of their attendance zones to nearby schools that offer football or baseball programs. Specifically, a Hathaway High student would like to transfer to Elton High in order to play football. Hathaway has no football program; but, as board member Charles Bruchhaus, who represents the Elton area, pointed out, Elton has lost several students to Kinder High, which offers baseball and softball, whereas the Indians do not.
The school board seemed to empathize with students who would like to have the opportunity to play certain sports. Members were right, however, in realizing that such a policy change for athletic purposes could open a can of worms.
As JDP Superintendent of Schools Brian Lejeune pointed out, the Central Office has to say no to residents each week who want their children transferred to other schools for a variety of reasons. Unless the requests are made so a child can take advantage of specific classes or academic programs available at another school, the answer is usually no.
Many parents already ask for transfers out of attendance zones for reasons of little importance: they dislike the principal; they feel another school has better teachers; or, sometimes the reality is, they would really love to see Johnny or Jane play football or softball.
But if the School Board were to start allowing athletic transfers, parents would be lining up at the Central Office to request transfers for any little thing. Lejeune also pointed out that when a school loses a certain number of students, it has to let teachers go, as well. Our smaller schools would face staff and financial losses; our larger schools would have to figure if they had the room to take on more students. That would lead to even more problems. For example, if Jennings High would take on 20 Hathaway students and max out its seating availability, what would the school do if 10 new students moved into the Bulldogs’ attendance zone? Do you send the Hathaway kids packing? What if only 20 Hathaway students can be accepted and five other Hathaway families are left kicking and screaming because their children cannot become Bulldogs, but their neighbors’ kids were allowed to go?
Furthermore, how do you divide taxes and other funding allotted to certain schools? Would taxes have to be taken out of the Hathaway area and turned over to Jennings? Would it be fair to take Minimum Foundation Program funds from Hathaway just so a few kids can play baseball or football?
Really, a pro-athletic transfers policy would be disastrous for our schools. Sports have many positive aspects and can open certain doors for students. But our first concern should always be an excellent education, not ample athletic opportunities.
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