VERONA — The Augusta County School Board approved a motion Thursday night which makes changes to the school system’s athletics travel policy.
Dr. Greg Troxell, Augusta Schools’ executive director of operation, maintenance and athletics, proposed a new policy to the board which eliminates the 120-mile restriction on travel for school athletes, and also allows athletes to travel out of state for competition.
Fine Arts students, Future Farmers of America students and other groups, according to Troxell, have not had restrictions on their travel.
“And with the proposal tonight, we would allow athletics some of those same opportunities,” said Troxell.
Troxell added athletic directors and staff do not want athletes missing instructional time, but when teams get to district or state competition, they cannot control game times.
Three months ago, Troxell said, the school board approved post-season overnight trips on weekends. In Thursday’s proposed policy, teams will be permitted to compete during the regular season in weekend tournaments that require staying overnight, but teams will not leave school early on Friday in order to participate.
The new policy also proposes teams have permission for overnight trips when school is in session.
“Keeping in mind that we are going to protect instructional time,” Troxell said.
However, overnight trips will require pre-approval by the school board just as field trips require pre-approval. If an overnight trip should require approval before the next school board meeting, approval from Augusta Schools Superintendent Dr. Eric W. Bond would be necessary.
Teams will no longer have the 120-mile restriction, but must still return to Augusta County by 11 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays.
“I talked to [athletic directors] today, a lot of this stuff will have to be Saturday [games],” Troxell said.
For regular season games, the new policy would allow teams to travel out-of-state.
Troxell offered an example for the importance of this policy change. In July, Buffalo Gap was searching for a football scrimmage and was offered an opportunity 45 miles away at a school in West Virginia. The out-of-state restriction meant that the Bison had to travel 110 miles to another school to stay in Virginia.
“So, we feel like, going out of state is not a bad thing,” Troxell said. Out-of-state travel will require approval by Bond.
Bond said that if a team wants to stay overnight out of state, the school board must approve the trip.
School board member David R. Shiflett said he was concerned that out-of-state or overnight expenses not fall on parents or students. Booster clubs or the school system should still provide compensation.
Vice Chairman Nick Collins said that when the previous restrictions in the athletics travel policy were put in place, gas prices were $5 per gallon and the school system was worried about being able to pay teachers.
“A lot of [decisions were] based on economics,” said Collins.
Troxell added that the school system was making cuts to all programs, and athletics could not be excluded from cuts.
Collins said that tournaments, particularly for wrestling, give student athletes scholarship opportunities.
Bond said that agriculture, choir and theater students often have similar opportunities.
“So we just felt like our student athletes need some of the same opportunities,” said Bond.
A motion was made by Collins and seconded by Shiflett, and the athletic travel policy changes were unanimously approved.
Tina Kiracofe, Augusta School’s assistant superintendent of instruction/technology, said that Nov. 18 to 22 is the 98th Annual American Education Week.
“This week will honor the team of people who work in the nation’s public schools, everyone from bus drivers and classroom teachers to the cafeteria worker and administrative staff,” said Kiracofe.
The week is also “an opportunity for school and community leaders to renew their commitment and support for quality public education for all students.”
Augusta Schools will celebrate the week by placing floral arrangements created by Valley Career & Technical Education students in school and department offices, according to Kiracofe.
Kiracofe introduced that along the guidelines of “Profile of a Learner,” Augusta Schools is implementing Trailblazers.
She said the school system received 40 applications from teachers in all grade levels and schools within the system to be Trailblazers.
“The Trailblazers will sort of be our pioneers for 21st Century learning implementation,” Kiracofe said.
Two volunteers from each school will be selected as Trailblazers at the start of the program.
“Because we know there will be times when we have to take risks, and things may not always be 100 percent perfect the first time, and that’s okay. We learn by doing, and that goes for teachers, as well as students,” Kiracofe said.
She said the hope is the Trailblazers will hold their first meeting Jan. 3, and begin to work on integrating 21st Century skills into classrooms.
“I think it’s a really neat opportunity for our teachers,” Kiracofe said. “A lot of times there’s not a lot of different pathways for teachers and their careers.”
Being a Trailblazer “provides sort of a different step in that career pathway to be a leader.”