Pequot Lakes Middle School students may be able to participate in Wednesday sports practices and fine arts rehearsals if the school board rescinds a policy that currently limits such activities on Wednesdays because that’s a night set aside for church activities.
At a work session Monday, Aug. 5, Superintendent Chris Lindholm said he would recommend the board eliminate the policy and allow coaches and the activities director to schedule as best they can. The board doesn’t make decisions at work sessions. The next school board meeting is Monday, Aug. 19.
Current practice allows for high school students to practice on Wednesdays, but not middle school students. With the proposed change, middle school students would be able to participate in scheduled practices and would have the option to leave early or not attend for religious activities.
The idea behind the policy, which was written in 1993, is to allow middle school students to attend church-related activities on Wednesdays. The board was wary of how it approached the policy, but the consensus was that the board has to remain autonomous and make policy for the school district as a public institution, not for other specific groups. Lindholm said the policy dances on real thin ice in a very public way of the district overstepping bounds as a public school.
Lindholm said he gets requests each spring for Wednesday practices for middle school students because bad weather forces so many practices to be canceled. After doing research, he said no other school district in Minnesota has such a policy.
Pequot Lakes varsity baseball coach Jon Kotaska addressed the board. He said the weather doesn’t always cooperate in the spring and fall for sports teams to practice, and when trying to reschedule practices the coaches can’t always find indoor facilities for practice.
This results in a lot of missed practice time and parents asking why their kids aren’t practicing.
Kotaska surveyed other school districts, and of 19 responses received, no other school district prohibits Wednesday practices for middle school students. Those districts do allow students to leave early.
Kotaska said there would be no punishment for a student who doesn’t attend a Wednesday practice or who leaves early. Games still wouldn’t be scheduled on Wednesdays.
Lindholm said Pequot Lakes’ policy isn’t consistent. The district participates in co-ops with other districts for some sports - such as wrestling with Pine River-Backus - and those districts don’t have such a policy so middle school students do practice on Wednesdays.
Board members Mike Erholtz and Tracy Wallin were absent Monday.