ARLINGTON — Younger students deserve more sports choices, Arlington school trustees agreed during a lengthy work session this week. But should the sports be tennis and soccer?Athletic Director O.J. Kemp’s presentation Thursday night on expanding junior high sports choices drew more spirited discussion than the district’s budget projections or employee survey results, which were also on the agenda.Current sports offerings for seventh- and eighth-graders at Arlington’s 12 junior high schools include basketball, cross-country, football, track and volleyball.But more students could be involved if tennis and soccer were added, Kemp said.Trustees praised the idea of offering more choices.“Everybody assumes all the money in a district goes to athletics, and it really doesn’t,” Trustee John Hibbs said.The athletic department’s choice of the two sports was influenced by a survey of physical education students, as well as staffing, facility and cost concerns.The survey found that the sport with the highest interest was soccer, requested by 26.8 percent of respondents, followed by swimming, 21.2 percent; baseball, 14.6 percent; tennis, 11.6 percent; wrestling, 9.6 percent; golf, 6.6 percent; gymnastics, 5.6 percent; and softball, 4 percent.Trustee Tony Pompa expressed some disappointment with the athletic department’s decision-making process.“I wanted more information on all the programs, wanted to give you guys some feedback, but it looks like your decisions are already made,” Pompa said.Board members received almost 100 emails from parents and students who want wrestling, Pompa said.Other trustee concerns included transportation issues, the time of day for tennis and soccer activities, and whether coaches should go to the students’ campuses instead of having the students come to them. One trustee asked whether tennis and soccer would be equitable for students in all parts of the city.Board President Peter Baron forced discussion on the issue to a close as 11 p.m. approached, with several agenda items left unresolved.“I suggest we put this on the budget and vote on it next time,” he said. “Or we could spend another couple of hours talking about it then.”Kemp said tennis and soccer would have boys and girls teams, with current high school coaches who would receive stipends.Tennis students would earn a half-credit of physical education per semester.Classes would take place before school from 7:30 to 8:45 a.m. every other day. Parents would drop off students at a high school, and the students would ride a district school bus back to their junior high.Tournaments would take place Saturdays.The total projected cost of the tennis program is $53,540.Soccer teams would play one game a week after school for five weeks during April and May. They would play at junior highs and high schools, and visiting teams would be bused to games. A citywide tournament would end the season.Soccer would not count as a PE credit because of the short season.The total estimated cost of the soccer program is $133,954.
Shirley Jinkins, 817-390-7657 Twitter: @shirljinkins