Students who transfer to magnet school can play

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 5, 2000

MIKE KIRAL AND ERIK SANZENBACH / L’Observateur / August 5, 2000

LAPLACE – When the west bank of St. John the Baptist Parish gets its long-awaited magnet school, several questions arise as to school population and athletic eligibility.

If a student who plays football at East St. John High School decides to attendthe magnet program at West St. John High, will he be able to play football forthe Rams? LHSAA Secretary/Treasurer Tommy Henry, who acts as commissioner over state high school athletics, says yes, if some rules are followed.

Henry said students transferring to the magnet school would be given a grace period and could play any sport immediately, no matter where they came from in the parish, as long as they were at the magnet school on the first day of classes.

West St. John would be classified as a traditional school with a magnet schoolcomponent, he explained. The first year the magnet school is offered, the2001-2002 school year, students at any grade level in the school district will be eligible to play for West St. John as long as they are on the attendanceroles at the magnet school on the first day of school. However, if a studentwaits anytime after the first day to transfer to the magnet school, that student is ineligible for one year.

After the first year of the magnet school program, Henry said, only ninth- graders will be able to transfer to the magnet school from outside the West St. John attendance zone and be eligible to play. Again, they must be enrolledat the school the day the school year begins. An exception, he said, is astudent who moves to the school system for the first time. That studentwould be eligible immediately, regardless of grade classification, if they attend the magnet school the first day of classes.

An out-of-zone student who transfers from the magnet school to the traditional school at West St. John High at any time is ineligible for one year.But students may at any time transfer back to their home zone without penalty.

Another question raised by the magnet school issue is that of change of district classification due to school population. High school athletic teamsare put into classifications according to the school population size, and right now West St. John plays in Class 2A. Would the increased population becauseof the influx of magnet students change that classification to 3A? It would, according to Henry, if the number of students in the magnet program pushes the attendance at West St. John to the next level. Studentsat the magnet program count on West St. John’s attendance roles.But WSJ principal Glenda Gaudet said West St. John High had a very largegraduating class this year, and she predicts there will be a very large graduating class in 2001.

“The new magnet students would make up for that loss, and it would not change our classification,” said Gaudet.

School board member Leroy Mitchell, who represents the west bank, doesn’t see the athletic issue as an issue at all.

“This shouldn’t have an impact at all,” Mitchell said. “We are focusing onacademics, not athletics.”The type of students the magnet school will attract will be more interested in the magnet school curriculum rather than the extracurricular activities, in Mitchell’s opinion.

“We are trying to get the same notoriety in academics that we already have in athletics,” said Mitchell.

Gaudet assured parents at last week’s meeting on the west bank magnet school that West St. John High would have enough room to accommodate thenew magnet students.

West St. John High would be one part of the magnet school. West St. JohnElementary would handle magnet students from kindergarten to eighth grade and West St. John High would handle the rest.The elementary school has already added a roof to the back part of its building and will start to build eight more classrooms to accommodate the magnet students.

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