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Student-athletes have what it takes to make the team, but school officials are looking to make sure they have what it takes to make the grade.

After seeing average GPAs for student-athletes earlier this school year, school board members requested a report from school officials that gives more information about student-athletes and their grades.

A student must maintain a 2.0 GPA for all classes each quarter and can receive only one failing grade as part of the academic requirements, according to the athletic handbook.

The GPA requirement is the same as 16 other counties, said A.K. Johnson, coordinator of student activities. Johnson said three counties, Prince George’s, Howard and Montgomery, also allow for one failing grade.

Johnson provided the school board with a chart of average GPAs per school for winter and fall sports.

Many schools had an average of just above 3.0 with North Point High School reaching the highest at 3.5 for fall sports and Maurice J. McDonough and Henry E. Lackey both with the lowest winter sports average at 2.99.

The five-year trends at each high school have GPAs for both winter and fall close to 3.0.

Sylvia Lawson, the county’s assistant superintendent of school administration, said when looking deeper into student-athlete academic trends, many students who struggle are on junior varsity teams, and many of them are freshmen having a difficult time adjusting to high school.

Johnson said GPAs go with students from eighth grade to ninth grade for tracking purposes, but those GPAs don’t affect eligibility for play freshman year.

School board Chairwoman Roberta S. Wise said it is important to get to students while they still are on the middle school level to stress the importance of education.

“They have to understand education comes first,” she said.

Johnson said the school system started carrying eighth-grade GPAs over to high school last summer, and while there were low scores, he said many of those students who were targeted to make sure they stayed on track improved on their adjustment from middle school to high school.

Johnson agreed with board members that not all student who play high school ball will make it to the next level in their sport and that academics should be stressed early on.

Johnson said he has heard many suggestions for holding incoming students to some sort of academic requirement. He said if that were to happen, there would need to be support.

Supports in place for student-athletes at various schools currently include team study halls, weekly or bi-weekly grade reports, meetings with coaches, counselors and teachers for struggling student-athletes that will get them on an improvement plan, peer mentors, parent contact to discuss academic issues and grade recovery programs such as Saturday school.

Student-athletes who perform poorly academically during the season may be held out of practice or a game to see a tutor.

Lawson said staff understand that when looking at supporting students, it may not always be strictly with specific courses but also time management and other areas that students may need resources for to help improve their studies.

She said staff also realize additional parent involvement would be helpful with student academic achievement.

Board member Maura H. Cook said she sees a trend with some students repeating the same patterns year after year with student continuously making the team only to be ineligible mid-year due to grades.

Cook said there are plenty of student who have the grades and are ready to play but get cut at the beginning of the year while others make the team only to become ineligible later.

Lawson said staff could talk with coaches about that concern.

Cook said she would like to see middle school students required to come in with at minimum a C before being eligible to play sports.

Board member Michael K. Lukas agreed with Cook and Wise that more of a premium needs to be put on students coming in from the eighth grade. He said this should go for all students not just those involved in sports.

Katherine Snee, student liaison for La Plata High School, said she feels that allowing one F should be changed.

Snee said she participates in sports and maintains a 4.0.

She said if a student receives an F, then maybe that person can’t handle both school and sports.

Snee said sports participation does look good when trying to get into colleges, but “if you cant get grades to support them, it’s not going to make a matter.”

Board member Jennifer S. Abell agreed, saying “no failing grade should be acceptable.”

Susan Duncan, student liaison for Thomas Stone High School, said the National Honor Society has a tutoring program to help students, and it is doing well with student-athletes. She said coaches encourage students to participate.

Thomas Lilly, a football player at North Point High School and student liaison for North Point, said student-athletes do support one another, but at the end of the day they can’t force a struggling student to put effort on a test.

Lilly, who maintains a GPA higher than 4.0, said he was curious if the support programs put in place would help students develop a love for learning or if it just helps inflate a grade.

“Yes, it’s good to score better on paper, but if we’re not helping them actually learn more than why not just lower the requirement?”

Superintendent Kimberly A. Hill suggested putting a work group together of school staff, students and board members to look into the current policies and suggest alternatives.

gphillips@somdnews.com