Charter students could join Encinal High sports teams

Charter students could join Encinal High sports teams

Michele Ellson

Alameda’s charter school students could once again have the opportunity to participate on Encinal High School’s sports teams under an application to be considered by state scholastic sports officials in late September.

The application is based on a fresh interpretation of the rules governing the number of students that must be counted toward a school’s total – with the total number used to determine what division a school plays in – that could affect schools beyond Alameda’s borders.

“I will go to Sacramento, I will advocate this for the kids, and I hope it will be okay for this year,” Encinal High School Athletic Director Kevin Gorham told Alameda’s Board of Education on Tuesday.

Three years ago, Encinal schools officials ended an agreement that allowed Alameda Community Learning Center students to participate on the high school’s sports teams, because they were concerned that the growing number of students in all of the district’s charters would push the school into a division where its sports teams would be less able to compete. ACLC students who were already on Encinal’s teams were allowed to stay, but others were allowed only to practice with the Encinal teams, but not compete.

But Encinal gave the ban another look when families from both Encinal and ACLC, which is housed on the Encinal campus, asked the board in June to reconsider it.

“I do not understand why this decision was made,” ACLC student Patrick Melendez, who said he participated on Encinal’s track team during the 2010-2011 school year, told the board in June.

The California Interscholastic Federation allows multi-school teams to participate in school sports competitions, though district administrators said in June that charter students typically aren’t allowed to join other schools’ sports teams. And they said administrators at both Alameda High and Encinal High wanted to be able to include students from all of the district’s charters – which they believed would put Encinal into another division.

But during a meeting earlier this month with an official with the federation’s North Coast Section, Assistant Superintendent Sean McPhetridge said he and Gorham learned that Encinal may have misinterpreted the guidelines governing the number of students they must count in their enrollment tally, by adding up all of the charters’ students instead of only those living in Encinal’s attendance zone. Under the latter criteria, Encinal could continue competing against other Division III teams.

“The directions were not clear,” McPhetridge told the board Tuesday.

Gorham said he’ll ask the federation on September 24 to allow Encinal to accept charter students onto the school’s sports teams while remaining in Division III, which includes schools with between 1,151 and 1,600 students. His comments drew applause from parents and students who attended Tuesday’s meeting.

“I’m only here on behalf of kids of Alameda. No applause is necessary,” Gorham said.

In other business, the board:

• Considered a request to bring an after care and summer program for disabled students into the district. The district’s special education chief said Alameda unified would like to strike a deal with Ala Costa to bring its program to Alameda but can’t find the facilities the program needs; 13 Alameda families bus their children to the group’s Oakland and Berkeley programs now.

• Received a report on the status of the district’s hiring, facilities projects, technology, enrollment and textbook purchases. Enrollment appears to be up by more than 300 students over last year, rising for the first time in several years; firmer enrollment numbers should be available within the month. The district completed most of the more than $3 million in facilities projects it undertook over the summer, though some projects, including play structures and fire alarm projects at some of the district’s elementary schools, weren’t finished when schools opened their doors on Monday.

• Approved new impact fee levels for future residential and commercial developers. In 60 days, commercial developers will be required to pay the district 51 cents per square foot they plan to build, a nearly 50 percent increase over the current rate, while residential developers would pay 36 cents, a reduction, starting today. The rates are based on state-approved maximums.