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IHSAA by-law change may allow schools offering virtual classes to participate in sports

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INDIANAPOLIS — A letter sent to member schools late last week appears as if high school student-athletes that are taking online courses to start the fall semester will still be able to participate in sports.
Radio station WIBC in Indianapolis in a story reported by Rob Connett over the weekend states that Friday the Indiana High School Athletic Association sent a letter to all athletic directors in Indiana, informing them of a change to a by-law.
The change says that if a school is offering virtual or online courses this fall semester, and that class is taught by personnel of that member school, they can still participate in sports.
While opening that door, the IHSAA also left it closed by saying that “…local control decision-making permits a school to set a requirement above the standard set forth by the IHSAA. For instance, a school may still require in-building attendance for athletic participation.”
The letter also noted that “…if a third party is delivering instruction to your students (teachers not employed by your school), and the percentage of courses being taught is over 30 percent of the total number of courses offered, a waiver for the school, not the athlete is required from the IHSAA.”
Locally Plymouth schools had initiated a policy of not allowing those that chose an e-learning option from participation in extracurricular activities. Given the IHSAA statement, Plymouth schools took the option of being in line with the IHSAA.
Speaking on WTCA’s “What’s Your Opinion” show, Superintendent Andy Hartley stated that given the IHSAA statement Plymouth schools decided to be in line with the IHSAA.
“Andy sent a response to our parents to let them know what our policy was going to be,” said Plymouth High School AD Michael Delp. “He said that given the IHSAA statement that Plymouth schools would make a change to their policy and allow those choosing the e-learning option to participate in extracurricular activities.”
“Extracurriculars are a great motivator to our students,” said Delp. “It ends up being a way to motivate our students to make wise decisions in the classroom and off the field. I’ve talked to many parents who want their child to have a chance to play and be involved and the positive is allowing more kids to be involved.”
“The challenge this fall will be very different,” said Delp. “Our e-learning students will be given a teacher and set of guidelines that they will have to comply with keeping up and getting assignments in on time.”
Delp sees the challenge as an academic one.
“They are student-athletes, the student first,” he said. “The challenge will be in keeping track of that. I think that e-learning students may be surprised after last spring of the expectations they will have even working from home during the fall.”
“Our primary concern is educating students whether it be on the field or in the classroom,” said Delp. “The context of those lessons are different on the athletic field than in the classroom but they are the same.”
“It’s different working at home than in a classroom where somebody is sitting there encouraging you to be sure you get things done,” he said. “The challenge for us is academic and not athletic.”

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