CMS extends suspension of 2.0 GPA requirement for extracurricular activities for fall semester

Published: Jul. 14, 2021 at 5:09 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education is extending grace to students for the fall semester.

School leaders acknowledged the pandemic’s effects on academic performance but do not want to cancel a student’s chance to participate in extracurricular activities because of their grades last year.

“Without those experiences, academic achievement is likely to suffer rather than improve,” Superintendent Ernest Winston Winston said.

The Board voted 7-1 Tuesday night to suspend Policy JJJ for the fall semester which requires students to have a 2.0 GPA from the prior semester in order to participate in extracurricular activities.

According to the CMS policies, Policy JJJ reads as follows.

All students in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools are encouraged to seek and maintain the highest possible academic achievement. Extracurricular activities are recognized as an important and beneficial adjunct to the educational experiences of students. However, first priority must be given to their academic performance.

All students in middle school and high school, except first semester students initially entering the seventh or ninth grade, must have earned a grade point average of 2.0 for the preceding semester to participate in school-sponsored extracurricular activities. A student may participate in a school-sponsored extracurricular activity only if (1) the student is currently enrolled in at least one-half of the minimum academic course load, and (2) the student was in attendance at school that day for at least one-half of the instructional day.

The policy was suspended for the 2020-2021 school year.

District 1 Board member Rhonda Cheek says she brought the motion to extend the suspension of Policy JJJ to the superintendent about a month ago.

“I have to say this does not represent a relaxation of academic standards,” Winston said. “We’ve maintained that academics must and should always come first; however, many students’ experiences are enriched with school-sponsored extracurricular activities.”

Cheek says they need to pour all of their energy into students so they can succeed in the fall.

“The importance of that music program, the importance of ROTC, robotics, odyssey of the mind, soccer, track, whatever the extracurricular that speaks to the heart of a child, the heart of a student - is something we need to honor and respect,” Cheek said.

District 6 Board member Sean Strain voted against extending the suspension saying while extracurriculars are fundamental to development, academics are the core and clear expectations are in place.

“All of our students knew this was the expectation last semester and they were able to perform how they were able to perform, now we’re looking at next semester and saying ‘well it was a difficult situation and we’re going to lower the bar’ that’s what this is. I mean we can say it’s not lowering but we are indeed - that’s exactly what we’re doing,” Strain said.

Strain says he did not support the suspension when it was voted on last year.

Mallard Creek High School athletic director Quante’ Speight agreed with the Board’s decision to extend the GPA suspension.

Speight said staff at MCHS take a holistic approach to student success and performance both in and out of the classroom.

“We understand kids need those outlets, they need athletics and the activities,” Speight said. “They need those things so taking that holistic approach really helps us to focus on [their] mental health.”

Additionally, he says MCHS does its part to enforce high academic standards with study halls and advisor meetings.

“Athletics is not first and foremost, academics are first and foremost, we also understand the student-athlete approach so we carry on that approach as best as we can by trying to put education at the forefront,” Speight said.

School leaders are considering if the policy needs to be suspended for the entire spring semester, but they have not made any decisions yet and will review it if it is appropriate for the spring semester.

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