Pittsburgh Public Schools last night presented parents and officials with details of a potential reform of its athletic program that would combine some Oliver and Perry high school sports programs.
In the first of three community meetings about the proposed changes, held at Oliver High School, a newly-formed athletic task force gave their recommendations on how to cope with decreased enrollment in some sports programs.
If approved by the school board, the cooperative agreement between Perry and Oliver would go into effect for the 2012-13 school year. The agreement would mean that when one school did not have enough students enrolled in a specific sport, the two school teams would become one team, said Derrick Lopez, assistant superintendent of secondary schools.
The recommendations for reform came from an audit of the athletic programs undertaken by the district a year and a half ago. The findings were made public in March, Lopez said.
The audit found that enrollment in athletic programs has dropped drastically, especially among female students.
The dropping enrollment is troubling because student athletes are less likely to drop out of high school, miss fewer days of class and get higher grades, according to studies referenced in the audit.
If each school had enough students interested in a sport to support its own team, the teams would not be combined, Lopez said, but combing students from two teams would allow them to participate in the sport of their choice and be on a competitive team.
“We have sports across the district that are under subscribed, like tennis, golf, soccer, cross country,” Lopez said.
The reform aims to increase students’, especially female’s, participation in athletics, and to address concerns over competition, transportation, facilities and league structure.
The task force also is proposing to join Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League and focus on working with community organizations to get young girls interested in sports from a young age, among other things.
The purpose of joining WPIAL is to give teams a more diverse and challenging roster of teams to face. According to the recommendations, the district would maintain a city league championship for each sport in addition to the WPIAL competitions.
At last night’s meeting, Lopez said that attendees were concerned over the proposed combination of some Oliver and Perry teams because of logistical problems, including safely transporting students from one school to another after school, and then getting them safely home after practice.
The task force does have some solutions in mind for those problems, but did not publicly vet them.
“We just wanted to get the big ideas on the table,” Lopez said.
The district is accepting feedback online, and two community meetings remain. For more information about the remaining meetings, to fill out the survey and to view the full presentation of the recommendations, visit www.pps.k12.pa.us and click on “Shape the Future of Athletics.”