Lawrence school board reinstates 7th grade basketball, adds cross-country to middle school athletics

photo by: Meeting screenshot/Lawrence Public Schools YouTube Channel

Ron May, the Lawrence school district's director of operations, speaks to the school board in this screenshot from video of the board's meeting on June 10, 2019.

Students at Lawrence middle schools will have new athletic activities to pursue next school year.

The Lawrence school board approved with a 5-0 vote to reinstate seventh grade boys and girls basketball and to begin offering seventh and eighth grade boys and girls cross-country at each district middle school. Board members Rick Ingram and Kelly Jones were absent from the meeting.

The new teams will begin playing during the 2019-2020 school year.

Ron May, the district’s director of operations, said the seventh grade basketball teams were pulled from the middle school athletic programs during the 2002-2003 school year because of “massive budget cuts.” But there is an appetite for students to participate in more sports teams, and he expects between 100 to 200 students to join the new cross-country teams.

The only additional cost associated with the move includes budgeting new head coach and assistant coaching compensation, which are $1,525 and $1,235, respectively, for each of the four schools and a total of $11,040. The rest of the costs associated with both programs will be covered through middle school budget allocations.

“We wanted to make sure it’s cost-neutral,” he said.

May said the district will look to add more sports in the future, such as seventh grade football and volleyball.

Kristin Mallory, a physical education teacher and coach at Southwest Middle School, told the board she supported adding more sports to middle school athletics because they offer additional benefits to students.

“Student-athletes as a whole are more tied into their schools,” she said. “They are held accountable by coaches and teams who serve as an added layer of connection for students, not only on the court, but academically and behaviorally.”

Mallory said adding the teams would help address equity gaps in recreational and club sports, where parents usually need to pay fees for their children to participate, which can often price out children from low-income backgrounds.

Board member Shannon Kimball said she heard from community members asking about middle school sports, and she was happy to add the basketball and cross-country teams to the program.

“I’m really excited about this,” she said. “It’s been really great to see messages from people saying ‘I really hope my kids get to participate in this.'”

Board OKs redesign participation

In other business, the board gave final approval to allow four of its schools to participate in the Kansas State Department of Education’s redesign project.

In April, KSDE approved applications from Broken Arrow, Deerfield and Hillcrest elementaries and Free State High School to join the Kansans Can School Redesign Project. Those schools are expected to soon begin planning their redesigns for the 2020-21 school year.

The goal of redesign, which will eventually touch all Kansas schools, is to move away from an approach that relies exclusively on state assessments, and into a model driven by four principles: student success skills, personalized learning, community partnerships and real-world applications, according to talking points from KSDE. An April 1 Journal-World article provided details about redesign and what it might look like. Find that online at


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