Henrico school leaders say last Fall, just 89 % of the district's high school student athletes reached a 2.0 grade point average. Right now they're not required to do so, but the Superintendent's new proposal calls for higher academic standards for athletes.
School officials say athletes must be held accountable for their studies as well as their sport. Under the proposal, GPA requirements will gradually go up over several years - and that's the part that concerns some board members.
"Sometimes you do get home late and you don't have the time management skills to manage both," says student athlete Ieisha Monroe.
The Varina High volleyball captain admits balancing sports and academics can sometimes be a challenge.
"I actually had a situation where on one of my classes I wasn't doing too well and I had to get tutoring to get my grades up. It actually pushed me to not only get them up for the season, but also keep them up for the school year so it was a great motivation for me," Monroe said.
It's why she supports a plan Henrico school officials are considering right now.
"The coaches know and when they start saying ‘we're going to change their classes so they don't have tough classes', that's not the way to go," Board Member Lamont Bagby said.
Thursday, Superintendent Patrick Russo submitted a plan to board members that says beginning next year, all Henrico student athletes, future and present, would be encouraged to maintain a 1.6 grade point average. The following year, 2014, the 1.6 GPA will be required for all student athletes. The next school year, 2015, the standard will increase to a 1.8 GPA and then the year after that, 2016, all student athletes will have to maintain a 2.0.
"I don't think it takes you four years to get there to be able to do this," said Board Member Diana Winston.
Most of the board seemed in favor of the plan, but suggested not waiting so long to increase the standards to a 2.0.
"If it's where we want to go, if we think the standard is where we want it to be, let's go for it," Bagby said.
Monroe believes her counterparts can handle it.
"Academics always come first in order to be successful in anything," she said.
The Virginia High School League says it only requires student athletes are passing their courses in order to play sports but stands behind school districts that want to step up grade requirements.
Under the plan, if a student athlete is unable to meet the requirements, they can get a onetime waiver, excusing their grades for one semester. Henrico school leaders will continue weighing options on this proposal before putting it to a vote later this month.
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