OXFORD— Call it trying to strike a balance.
The board of directors for the Clear Creek Amana (CCA) school district approved the first reading of a revised policy addressing athletic practices and other school activities on Wednesday nights and Sunday at their Aug. 15 regular monthly meeting in Oxford. The issue first came up last spring when the board received correspondence from some concerned parents asking to have Sunday practices abolished.
Members of the varsity softball team addressed the board at a subsequent meeting during the Community Forum portion, asking for the Sunday practices to continue and citing their value as the team prepped for regional and state tournament competition.
Board members Aimee Pitlick and Bob Broghammer agreed to look into the issue. In an effort to better gauge the district’s opinion, surveys were conducted among middle school and high school parents. Using e-mail addresses already in the PowerSchool system, parents were sent a link, which took them to the survey.
At the Middle School 143 surveys were completed, representing about 40 percent of the student body. When asked to respond to the statement “It is appropriate to conduct extracurricular practices on Sunday,” 38 percent disagreed and 34 percent strongly disagreed. Twenty percent agreed with that Sunday practices were appropriate, and 8 percent strongly agreed.
One hundred eighty-two responses were received from the High School parents who had four statements to rate. Fifty-two percent said their child typically participates in a sport which requires/expects Sunday practices. When asked if that bothered them, 27 percent said they weren’t bothered at all, while 32 percent said it bothered them very much. A neutral response was registered by 19 percent of the parents who answered the survey. Forty-seven percent of parents said their children do not have required Sunday practices.
Asked if they agreed or disagreed (on a 1-5 scale) with the statement “I believe Sunday practices are necessary to give athletes more opportunity to improve,” only 18 percent said they agree completely compared to 25 percent neutral and 31 percent who disagree completely. The final question was one of perception, asking how the parent and their student interpret a coach saying Sunday practice is optional. Respondents were asked to choose between “attendance is optional, no repercussions (30 percent),” “attendance is optional, but an absence will probably affect playing time (43 percent),” and “there’s no such thing as ‘optional’ (26 percent).”
Board president Eileen Schmidt conducted her own survey of football and softball team members, engaging 37 softball players at a Sunday, June 3, practice, and 41 football players at a Saturday, July 7, practice. Schmidt asked, “Could you do without Sunday practices?” and received 40 yes and 38 no responses. She said one student answered, “We could, but it is what makes our program great and where we get tough as a team and really come together.”
Schmidt asked other questions of the team members, such as what was the most valuable day for them to practice, and whether Sunday practices affect acadmemic performance or family life in a negative way.
Broghammer was concerned that parents might have had multiple chances to vote, but high school principal Mark Moody said they did not. Once a respondent voted, he or she was locked-out from any future attempts. It was possible for multiple responses from one household if both parents were in the PowerSchool database, though.
“It’s not scientific, but it’s a good sample,” said board member Terry Davis.
Pitlick and Broghammer acknowledged, they were on opposite ends of the discussion, with Pitlick wanting no school-related activities of any kind on Sunday, keeping the day open as a family day. Broghammer, an assistant coach for the varsity football program, defended the opportunity for extra practice on Sundays. He said not all activities count as a practice under Iowa High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) or Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union (IGHSAU) rules, such as weight lifting and conditioning. He proposed those activities be excluded from the two-hour Sunday practice policy.
Pitlick countered Broghammer’s request by pointing to CCA high school’s AP weightlifting elective. “Why aren’t we utilizing it?” she asked. She said she also contacted area athletic performance centers and was told unanimously that seven days of practice and/or lifting was too much. She proposed, “absolutely no school activities on Sunday or after 6 p.m. on Wednesday. They need a day,” she added.
“Who are we to choose?” Broghammer said.
“You want Saturday? We’ll make it Saturday. They need one day,” Pitlick countered.
Broghammer noted the IHSAA often schedules post-season games on Monday nights, making Sunday practice vital. “Talk to the superintendent,” Pitlick said, suggesting there could be an exception for post-season play.
“I don’t understand why this is such a big deal,” a frustrated Broghammer said. “If this is a number one priority, we must be doing a hell of a good job with everything else.”
The original “Open Night” policy only covered Wednesday nights, informally referred to as church night in many districts and athletic conferences. Throughout the discussion board secretary Lori Robertson changed the wording and revised the policy as needed. When the vote finally came, a 4-3 vote by ballot was recorded, approving the first reading and including a moratorium on activities before 4 p.m. The board will see the policy again next month for its second reading before adoption.
The public is welcome to submit comments to the board in writing, via e-mail (through a link found on the district’s web page) or in person during the community forum of the regular meeting. It should be noted that as per its policy, board members cannot engage the public in conversation during the forum.