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Bethlehem to sport new varsity guidelines

The board and the committee did agree on several basic principals, including the need for conformity in dealing with such matters.

Board President James Lytle said it was clear that three basic principles were understood: student athletes have a responsibility to fulfill; there will be consequences for missing games for vacations and other activities " but would not include ineligibility for the entire season; and there will be an appeals process for students whose absences are due to extenuating circumstances such as illness or a family death.

The board unanimously approved this framework for a policy to be included in the high school's athletic handbook.

"I believe this is the right approach," Principal Charles Abba said. "It calls for consistency across the Athletic Department and ensures that no student will be prevented from participating on a team due to circumstances or opportunities that will take them out of town. I want to thank the parents and coaches whose participation in the process has led to this improvement."

Board members questioned the policy during the meeting asking whether it was a vacation policy or a standard athletics policy.

"We put a committee together and we met three times," Interim Athletic Director Ron Smith told the board. "This is a very difficult topic but I think we came up with a real good policy."

Smith said that the committee looked at the policies of other similar school districts and "spoke very candidly about this topic." The committee made it clear that the policy would only apply to "varsity level sports."

Superintendent Les Loomis said the spirit of the guidelines were clear enough for the board to accept the recommendations with a later vote on the formal wording of what will be included in next year's athletic handbook for students and parents.

Because of all the different sports teams, coaches and schedules, the board of education said it wanted to have a comprehensive and consistent policy that would apply to the entire athletics department.

According to Smith, absences in practices and competitions seem more prevalent in spring, but that the guidelines would also apply to the fall semester.

Board member Robin Storey said, "There needs to be some way to educate parents" about the new sports policy and that it should be included on the school's Web site and newsletter.

The board agreed that full disclosure and notice would be given to the community concerning the district's updated athletic policy.""

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