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Grade point average restrictions sidelining New London athletes

By Julianne Hanckel

Publication: The Day

Published March 01. 2013 4:00AM

New London - A total of 27 high school athletes in the fall and winter sports programs have attended mandatory academic support sessions because their grade point averages have fallen below 1.7, deeming them ineligible to participate in scheduled games.

The athletes were allowed to practice during that time but could not play until they raised their GPA up past 1.7. There was not a single athlete who was benched the entire season due to their academic ineligibility, Principal Tommy Thompson said at the Board of Education meeting on Thursday.

Next school year, students will have to maintain a 2.0 GPA to be eligible to participate in athletics or extracurricular activities, per a new policy the board adopted last year. The policy set the GPA requirement at 1.7 for the current school year.

The policy requires students with a GPA of below 1.7 to be placed on academic probation for five weeks and to attend academic support sessions. Thompson said a student's academic progress is checked every five weeks.

Sixteen athletes in winter programs, including four boys basketball players - the only winter program still in session - have attended academic support sessions between two and four days a week. Eleven athletes, including six football players and three boys soccer players, attended academic support sessions during the fall sports season.

Because this is the first year of the 1.7 GPA eligibility requirement, Superintendent of Schools Nicholas A. Fischer said he hopes to have a better benchmark of where the group of winter and spring athletes will fall in terms of their eligibility for the upcoming school year. If their GPA is not at 2.0, they will not be eligible to play.

Fischer said approximately 200 students or 20 percent of the high school population participates in athletics or extracurricular activities and that while 27 athletes this year is "not great," the number of students on academic support is declining.

"We're having a fair degree of success with kids who are realizing that they're not going to be able to play sports until they get their grades up," he said before the school board meeting.

New London does not have an option for athletes to take classes over the summer because the district does not hold summer school sessions, but they may take classes elsewhere.

Even though the school's academic support coordinator is responsible for making sure the students attend study halls, are on time for their classes and complete their schoolwork, Fischer said it's up to the student to produce work at levels high enough for them to be eligible to play.

However, he said some of the athletes from the fall may have carried into the winter sports season.

"Part of the function of this program is to maintain a connection with the kids, to keep working with them to get a handle ... on what's going on," Fischer said. "Sometimes there are pretty severe traumas going on, deaths in the family, breakup of a marriage, a parent may have moved away, all kinds of things. Study halls enable us to maintain contact with the students and coaches are being very good about making sure their athletes attend."

Athletes at New London High must also meet the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference rules to be eligible for competition. The CIAC requires students to have passing grades in four core, main-subject classes to be eligible, and a student who falls below the CIAC eligibility minimum is ineligible for competition until the next marking period.

j.hanckel@theday.com

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