Middle College: Program presents dilemma for board 2015.08.12

The changes taking place in the American education system are many, making it tough for board of education members to keep abreast of what's new and how it affects the local school. Morenci's board gave it a stab last week with a revision of several policies—in many cases involving scenarios that weren't even thought about a few years ago.

One such change involved middle college students and whether they should be allowed to compete in athletics at their home school. The middle college program allows students to earn both a high school diploma and an associate's degree over a five-year period. The Lenawee ISD offers a program and up to two Morenci students are allowed to enroll.

Board members voted against allowing sports participation, and at first we agreed. It's easy to feel resentment about the LISD program because it can take away a district's best students. It also takes the bulk of the state aid, leaving the local district with just 10 percent of funding.

In a small district such as Morenci, losing one able student can have a significant impact on academic standing. For a small, cash-strapped district, losing one student also hurts financially. Those factors made it easy for us to say, "Well, it's the student's choice. Choose to go to school elsewhere; give up what's left behind."

Perhaps that's how some board members felt about the issue. The board discussion also included the idea that students should be part of the overall "school team" in order to be part of a sports team. That reasoning was used with students in the alternative school program, as well, since they choose to stay out of the regular classroom. The board ruled that a pupil must be a full-time student in the school—at least five class periods—in order to participate.

Then we had some second thoughts. What about the students traveling to the LISD Tech program? They're part of the school team less than four hours a day. What about students who travel to Adrian for college courses through dual-enrollment programs? One of these years there will be a student who never enters the classroom but instead completes graduation requirements online.

Perhaps instead the school district should embrace every opportunity that students have to better themselves rather than punish them for taking the initiative to get the best education—and when earning college credit, the initiative to save a lot on tuition costs. In the case of a middle college student, we heard a suggestion that the $700 Morenci would receive could be considered a good pay-to-play payment and avoid the likelihood that a local student would enroll at another district that does allow athletic participation.

These are tough choices facing board of education members and not easily puzzled out. In this case, our opinion has changed. Now it seems right to be proud of the able students our teachers are producing, celebrate what they're capable of achieving, and allow them to still be a part of their home district for a well-rounded high school experience.