2021 | Schools

All MCPS freshmen eligible for sports, extracurriculars regardless of grades

Policy changes take effect in the fall

All high school freshmen will be eligible for sports and extracurriculars, regardless of their grades, beginning in the fall.

The Montgomery County school board this week approved changes to its eligibility policy, which previously required all students to have a minimum 2.0 grade-point average and have no more than one failing grade to participate in sports.

By removing the requirements, the school board hopes to encourage more students to be engaged with classes by giving them unfettered access to activities that interest them.

During previous meetings, board members said that sometimes sports or other activities are the only reason students are motivated to stay in school, and the district risks losing students completely by taking access away. Participation in extracurriculars correlates with better attendance and interpersonal skills, the revised policy says.

Currently, all first-year high school freshmen can participate in sports through the first quarter. Then, their eligibility is based on their grades.

MCPS Director of Athletics Jeff Sullivan said during a meeting last year that the rationale behind the change was consistency for sports seasons. Regardless of whether students participate in a fall or spring sport, they can participate, Sullivan said.

Approximately 90% of high school students were eligible to participate in extracurricular activities in the 2018-19 school year under the current policy, according to MCPS data. The percentage of eligible students steadily declined throughout the school year to about 84% in the fourth quarter.

The changes to the policy, which will apply to the 2021-22 academic year, will apply to sports, student government, fine arts, academic teams and other extracurriculars, according to school board documents.

Students’ eligibility at the first quarter of their sophomore year will be determined based on their grade-point average in the fourth quarter of their freshman year.

MCPS temporarily implemented similar measures to start the current school year, citing the strain of the COVID-19 pandemic on students.

Ten people provided feedback about the policy changes before they were adopted. Some agreed with the changes, but others said eligibility requirements should apply in ninth grade to encourage student-athletes to do well in classes.

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com