Student-athletes are using technology at an ever-changing rate. They are able to take classes online and graduate from high school in that manner; however, there is one aspect that is overlooked in many situations. An online school needs an activities director.
Houston High School in Minnesota provides a virtual option, Minnesota Virtual Academy, for all students in our state. Students who attend our virtual high school can take part in state association- sponsored activities within the district that they reside.
According to the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) bylaws, “a student who transfers from one MSHSL member school to another MSHSL member school utilizing Minnesota Statute 124D.03 Enrollment Options Program, and who transfers without a corresponding change of residence by the student’s parents shall select one of the following participation options:
(a) Retain full eligibility for varsity competition for one calendar year at the school where the student was enrolled prior to the transfer after which time the student shall become fully eligible at the school to which the student has transferred; or
(b) Be eligible only at the non-varsity level in the school to which the student has transferred for one calendar year.”
The residing district is determined by the place of residence for the student and his or her family. Some parents choose online education for their child for a variety of reasons. They may want more control over their child’s education or more options in courses provided, or they have medical or mental concerns such as anxiety or their child has dealt with bullying. Whatever the reason, if the student wants to participate in an activity sponsored by the MSHSL, a paperwork (or virtual paperwork) trail begins.
For a traditional high school, the activities director can talk to the coaches based on a list of newly registered students and can compare it to the students who are already out for an activity. He or she can talk to the player, ask questions and really get a feel for the whole story; the activities director is able to have that personal connection with the new student-athlete. Many activities directors will check in often to see how the experience is going for the new student-athlete.
In the online school situation, the student or family will petition the residing district to participate in a league-sponsored activity. The traditional activities director will call or email the online activities director and tell him or her that an online student attending the virtual school wants to participate in an activity at the residing traditional school. The online activities director gets the paperwork together, contacts the family, either through email or a phone call (many times both), and submits the paperwork to the state office to verify the student’s eligibility in the residing district. The online activities director does not get the opportunity to meet the student but has every confidence that his or her colleague in the residing district is making that connection.
Every activities director has challenges; an online activities director just has different ones. It is a unique opportunity to work with student-athletes and activities directors all over the state. The online activities director is really a stepping-stone in determining the eligibility of a non-traditional student-athlete. The goal is to get kids involved in activity programs, whether they are in the home district or a district 300 miles away.
Lisa Myran-Schutte is the activities director of the Houston Public Schools in Houston, Minnesota, and a member of the High School Today Publications Committee.