Pasco sixth-graders might get to play school sports

Published February 20

Pasco County middle schools are making plans to allow sixth-graders to participate on sports teams next year for the first time.

District athletic director Matt 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 push-back.

In fact, School Board members were among those asking the administration to take this step. Principals also support 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 could try out and be considered just as any other athlete, based on their performance.

Sixth-graders would become eligible to participate when entering their school, with grade checks for continued participation taking place after the first semester.

The district would not establish new teams, and does not expect to incur 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 policy appears to be the first time anyone seriously discussed making changes.

"We’ve just never had any sixth-graders participate at all. Ever," he said.

DID I GET IN? Students who applied to attend Pasco County’s new technical high school got word of their fate over the past week, giving them the chance to make other arrangements if they didn’t get accepted.

Many got their choices, but others learned that their program of interest had more applicants than available seats.

The school plans to serve 600 students. However, certain programs, including the popular biomedical option, can take close to 100 students, while others, such as welding, can serve only 40 because of limited equipment, principal Chris Dunning explained.

Biomedical had the most requests among applicants, with 225. Cosmetology, culinary arts, automotive service technology and information technology rounded out the programs with the most expressed interest.

Dunning expected the school to be filled, with a waiting list.

"I think we have enough interest in all the programs," he said. "We should be good."

Overall, 1,187 students applied for Wendell Krinn Technical High seats.

The largest number, 166, came from Ridgewood High, which is closing and transforming into Wendell Krinn Technical. Other schools with higher levels of interest included Hudson High (91 applicants), Gulf High (90), Mitchell High (84) and Anclote High (73).

Among middle schools, those with the highest numbers of eighth-graders applying were Chasco (59), Paul R. Smith (57) and Hudson (55).

The technical school also drew strong interest from students not in the system. It had 115 applicants from home-schooling, charter schools and virtual school.

NEW MAPS: Four sets of draft maps show the possible direction the Pasco County School Board might take as it again attempts to ease crowding with new attendance boundaries.

The district planning department posted the maps on its website ( ) shortly after receiving a media request to see what’s being put on paper. The ideas largely mirror those discussed during preparations to revise the west-side middle and high school zones a year ago.

A county judge voided the outcome, so the board is doing the work again. This time, it is operating under new guidelines and without the input of a parent-staff advisory committee.

The possibilities include stretching the Anclote High boundary eastward into the Mitchell High zone. Anclote has been under-capacity, while Mitchell has been overcrowded.

A map referred to as Number 11, created by community members, has been resurrected for review by the administration, which plans make a recommendation by early March. Changes have been made to account for the elimination of Ridgewood High zones.

The district’s stated goal is to fill open seats and reduce crowding. Its most recent attempt ultimately impacted fewer than 60 students.

The map the staff proposes will be open for public comment at a March 12 workshop. Superintendent Kurt Browning is scheduled to make a final recommendation after receiving the public input, on March 16.

The board would take public comment at an April 10 hearing, and then vote on the proposal May 1. Affected families would receive word of the changes shortly afterward, with school choice applications reopening for those families only on May 15.

Contact Jeffrey S. Solochek at [email protected] Follow @jeffsolochek.