In KUSD, online students should be OK to play

KINGMAN - Members of the Kingman Unified School District Governing Board will be getting a positive recommendation today about allowing current non-students to participate in district activities.

Roger Jacks, superintendent of KUSD, said he would recommend that the board "grandfather in" current online students who don't attend KUSD schools so they can continue to play in sports and attend other extracurricular activities. Jacks' recommendation is based on a ruling by the school district's attorney.

"I did talk to our attorney and will take that information to the board," said Jacks. "Our attorney felt it was a reasonable and fair thing to grandfather in the current students. He was OK with it. We'll see what direction the board wants to go, but I'm going to recommend that we follow the advice of our lawyer."

The issue of non-KUSD students participating in extracurricular activities and sports came up last fall when Jacks asked for a clarification on district policy because a student from a private school wanted to participate in football at Kingman Middle School.

Jacks asked the district's attorney, C. Benson Hufford with Hufford, Horstman, Mongini, Parnell & Tucker in Flagstaff, to issue a written opinion on that issue, which quickly snowballed to include online students.

Hufford said that allowing private school students to join public school sports and other extracurricular activities could get a district disqualified from interscholastic competition.

In response, the board asked district staff to revisit its policy of allowing online students who don't attend KUSD schools to participate in school-related events.

At a meeting last month, the board agreed to go back to Hufford and tell him the district would like to continue grandfathering in the online students who have been participating in programs at KUSD. The board also wants to refuse any new online participants.

According to the attorney's legal opinion last year, current rules state that:

• Private-school students don't have a right to participate in sports and extracurricular activities in public schools and the district doesn't have the authority to permit it.

• Home-schooled students in the district are allowed by state law to participate at no cost.

• Students in an accredited online school can play sports or attend other activities for a cost of $200. There's no law backing up this policy, which was recommended by the Arizona Interscholastic Association as part of a compromise with state legislators.

Currently, there are no home-schooled students taking advantage of KUSD extracurriculars. There are seven online students enrolled in events and clubs at Kingman High School. Last year, the district allowed them to participate but is seeking legal guidance about it for the upcoming school year.

Parent Virginia Gross showed up last month at the board meeting just to make sure her voice was heard about her 16-year-old son, Nicholas, and his eligibility. The Kingman youth is an online student who is a member of the KUSD chess team.

"There's not much opportunity to play chess in Kingman," said Gross then, noting it takes five players to form a team. "So we'd like Nicholas to remain a part of the district's chess team. But we're worried about whether he'll be allowed to and we've been thinking of other options for him."

Nicholas, a junior who was home-schooled from second to seventh grade and became an online student in eighth grade, has been playing on the chess team since he was a freshman. He is the team's top player and teaches other students how to master the game.

Gross said being part of the chess team has been good for Nicholas, because he gets the opportunity to hang out with teenagers who share his interest in the game. He also has learned how to raise money for chess competitions that include an overnight stay.

Beth Gile, a Golden Valley resident, also told the board she is very concerned about the situation and hopes online students can continue to participate.

Gile's 13-year-old son, Derek, is an eighth-grader in online school and a member of KUSD's Team 60 Robotics Club.