LEWISTON — After debate and some angst, the School Committee voted Monday night to pass a first reading of a policy change that would allow immediate creation of a boys lacrosse team.
Current policy requires a six-month wait before a new team is launched.
For the six-month policy wait to go away, a second reading would have to be passed. That vote is expected at the Feb. 27 meeting.
The request came Monday night from middle school athletic director Dale Forrest. Speaking for parents, she asked committee members to waive the policy that requires a six-month wait before a new team is created.
Parents have asked for a team that they will pay for during the first three years, she said. Forrest didn't bring the request to the committee sooner, she said, because she wanted to be sure parents were serious.
Parent Jamie Bolduc said her son plays lacrosse with the recreation department, but they have few teams to play. “All the other schools, except us and Auburn, have a lacrosse team, Brunswick, Falmouth. So when the rec department says, 'OK we want to have a game,' nobody wants to travel, because the kids are doing it during the week. We're lagging behind the other schools.”
Lewiston High School has a lacrosse team. It needs a feeder program, she said.
Parent David Rivet said he and other parents have enough people willing to cover the $8,000 to start the team, but they need the committee's approval soon to begin playing in April.
While some committee members wanted to change the policy to allow the team, others pointed out the policy was there for a reason, that even if parents pay for the sport there would be some School Department responsibility. And after three years the expectation would be for the School Department to cover costs.
Committee member Sonia Taylor said she's not opposed to the sport, “but I kind of feel like we're under the gun now.”
Committee member Paul St. Pierre said one reason for the six-month delay is to allow others to select the sports most likely to succeed and those that have the greatest need. New programs shouldn't be brought to the table “without serious consideration. . . . We definitely need to stick to parliamentary procedures.” He said he was not comfortable putting the policy aside.
Speaking to the parents, St. Pierre said he apologized “it wasn't made clear to you at the beginning that you had to have the ball started a full six months before implementation.”
Rivet countered that lacrosse parents are offering to get the program running. “It's not just about playing sports. It's making our kids well rounded. We've got sixth-graders. We have to make decisions, do we put our kids in the Lewiston Middle School system, or do we put them in another system? St. Dom's? Hebron or (North Yarmouth Academy)?”
He recognized there are procedures, “but in the business world we don't have six or eight weeks,” Rivet said, adding “there's an opportunity here.”
Superintendent Bill Webster recommended approval of the team. It's well documented that participation in sports improves academic performance of students, he said.
Webster said he appreciated the concern about procedure, “but all the legal advice I've received is the School Committee, within the limits of the law, can do what it wants to do.”
Shannon said suspending the policy “is no small matter,” and he wanted to be sure that the committee was on solid ground.
Committee member Bob Connors made a motion to suspend the rules to not mandate that the six-month wait have to occur. Committee member Jim Handy said the committee wasn't in a position to suspend the rules to change the policy. It's not a rule that was being suspended but a policy, Handy said.
Bolduc complained, “We're not coming here asking you if we can put condoms in the junior high.”
The committee voted 5-4 against Connors' motion. But after more debate, it voted in favor of passing the first reading to change the policy.