The Loudoun County Public Schools Department of Athletics is exploring various options to bring sports to the district’s 17 middle schools, including modified program offerings, intramural programs, and opening high school sub-varsity athletics to eighth grade students.
District Athletic Supervisor Derek Farry and his staff developed the potential programs with insights from Prince William, Fauquier, and Frederick counties. Neither Fairfax County nor Arlington County offer middle school sports.
Board member Ian Serotkin (Blue Ridge) expressed enthusiasm about continuing to explore options.
“There is study after study that shows a strong correlation between exercise and sports and academic performance,” Serotkin said.
Launching a full-fledged, varsity-like program comes with a hefty price tag, which Serotkin said at this point is not a viable option. The first year start-up costs would be $9,457,919, and annual operating costs in years following would be $7,822,854. That modified schedule would offer volleyball and cross country during the fall, basketball, sideline cheer, and wrestling in the winter, and soccer or lacrosse in the spring.
The accessibility of facilities is the largest impediment to creating sports programs at middle schools. Not all middle school facilities have playable baseball and softball fields, or competition tracks, for example.
A more feasible option would be an intramural league, which would cost an estimated $291,900 per year. The proposed program would offer flag football, soccer, volleyball, badminton, floor hockey, and basketball through after school, grade-level tournaments. The largest cost consideration for this plan would be the $6,348 stipend for each middle school activities coordinator. Equipment, trophies, and medals would cost about $76,000 annually. Transportation would cost about $20,000 annually.
The third option would be to allow eighth graders to participate in sub-varsity high school athletics, which includes the junior varsity and freshmen programs. Farrey pointed out that this would assist some programs that aren’t always able to fill their rosters with enough students.
Harris Mahedavi (Ashburn) was concerned that this option might take away opportunities from ninth graders who lose roster spots to younger athletes.
Farrey said that such an option would build community among school cluster.
However, Farrey also said that middle school principals are more concerned with meeting the needs and interests of their students by allowing them to form clubs and student groups, which athletics might detract from.
The options will be presented to the full School Board during its Oct. 28 meeting as an information item.