Stonington - Superintendent Van Riley and the District Athletic Committee are proposing that all high school athletes be required to earn at least a 2.0 grade point average in order to play in games and competitions, with the change to take effect after the first marking period of the 2013-14 school year this fall.
Riley said the recommendation will now go before the Board of Education's Policy Committee and possibly the full board, which would decide whether to add it to the athletics handbook or to change the existing policy.
Currently, under Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference rules, student-athletes are eligible for competition if they have a 0.6 GPA, which means they can have four Ds and two Fs and still be eligible. The CIAC also requires students to have passing grades in four core, main-subject classes, but Ds are considered passing. A 2.0 is a C average.
Riley, who came to Stonington last year after a long career overseeing school districts in California, said he was reviewing the school system's policies to see where improvements could be made when he came across the 0.6 requirement.
"A 0.6 is not what we want," he said. "What we're all about is academic success and athletics second. I think it's important to raise our standards."
Riley said the 2.0 standard was in place where he worked previously in the California, including at his last stop, the Huntington Beach Union High School District, which has 16,000 students, 5,000 of whom were athletes. He said the requirement was not a problem and was welcomed by students.
"It just became part of the culture," he said.
If the requirement were in effect now at the high school, he said, it would affect only about a dozen students. He said he would expect that number to drop to zero once the requirement went into effect. Riley said those affected would realize quickly that they needed to study more to be allowed back on the team.
"That's the whole idea," he said, adding that he believes all students are capable of obtaining a 2.0 GPA.
New London implemented a 1.7 GPA requirement this year, and 27 high school athletes in the fall and winter sports programs failed to meet the standard. In 2013-14, New London students will have to maintain a 2.0 GPA to be eligible.
The New London school board initially rejected the 1.7 GPA because members were worried that students with poor grades would lose interest in school altogether if they could not play sports.
Riley stressed that affected students in Stonington wouldn't just be told to get better grades. They would be assisted by coaches, teachers, tutors and parents to raise their GPAs.
"We're going to do everything we can to help students achieve," he said.
In California, he said, coaches held study halls for their athletes and closely monitored their progress.
"Coaches can have a huge influence," he said.
Students who do not have a 2.0 GPA would still be able to practice with their teams but would not be allowed to play in games. If the 2.0 GPA is implemented, it would not go into effect until the first marking period is over, which is before the end of the fall sports season. Eligibility would be determined based on the GPA in the last marking period, not on a student's overall GPA.
"I hope we do this," Riley said. "It's important."