Pasco County middle schools are making plans to allow sixth graders to participate on sports teams for the first time ever.
"For next year, we're going to let sixth graders do it," district athletic director Matt Wicks said.
Wicks plans to bring a policy revision proposal to the School Board in the next few months to make the change official. He said he did not anticipate any pushback.
In fact, School Board members were among those asking the administration to take this step. Principals also are supporting the move, Wicks said.
Word already is getting out to parents through social media.
If approved, the plan would allow sixth graders to try out for any middle school sport. Indoor sports, such as volleyball and basketball, would have junior varsity and varsity teams.
"We're not going to let sixth graders play varsity," Wicks said.
For sports with just one team, such as football and soccer, sixth graders would be allowed to try out and be considered just as any other athlete, based on their performance.
Sixth graders would become immediately eligible to participate on entering their school, with grade checks for continued participation taking place after the first semester.
The district would not establish any new teams, and does not expect to incur any additional costs. It aims only to give sixth graders more opportunities to take part in school activities.
The district's existing rule is a relic from when sixth grade was part of elementary school, and junior high schools served seventh and eighth graders. Wicks said the proposed new policy appears to the the first time anyone seriously discussed making changes.
"We've just never had any sixth graders participate at all. Ever," he said.
Previous coverage (podcast): Is sixth grade too young for school sports?