LEWISTON — A boys lacrosse team for Lewiston Middle School was approved Monday night, and will be able to begin competing with other schools this spring.
During the first three years parents will pay for the team through fundraising.
On Feb. 13 parent David Rivet told Lewiston School Committee members that he and other parents were willing to cover the $8,000 to start the team, but they needed committee approval.
Parents said their sons want to play lacrosse, it would help them be well-rounded students, other middle school teams have lacrosse teams, and the new team would be a feeder team for Lewiston High School’s lacrosse team. There is interest in a girls team but there are not yet enough players, committee members were told.
But Monday’s approval came after contentious debate over changing a School Department policy on short notice and to fit one circumstance.
At issue was a policy that said a new team can only be created after a six-month wait allowing time for analysis and notification. School Committee members voted to eliminate that policy and allow the team to form immediately.
Superintendent Bill Webster gave members a memo from the law firm of Brann and Isaacson in which they were assured as the governing body of Lewiston public schools, they had the authority to deviate from policy.
None of the school board members were opposed to a lacrosse team, but members Paul St. Pierre and James Handy objected to changing the policy.
It opens “up the potential for last-minute changes to policies, not just this policy, it could be any policy,” Handy said. “We’ve also sent a message to people that if you don’t like the policy, go to the school board, they’ll change it tonight.”
St. Pierre agreed, saying that policy is how business is conducted, and “should not be an annoyance.”
Handy asked Lewiston Middle School Athletic Director Dale Forrest, who represented the parents in asking for the change, if she was aware of the six-month wait. She said yes.
Handy said to her, “You didn’t stand up and say to the group, ‘This is what the policy is.’ You took the easy way out” and tried to abdicate the policy “and beg forgiveness afterward,” Handy said.
No, Forrest said, that was not her intent. Parents approached her in the fall saying they wanted to form a team. “I said it’s a great idea.” Knowing the players wanted to play, but there was a six-month policy to wait, Forrest said, “we’ll give it a shot.”
Member Sonia Taylor said parents did not approach the School Committee trying to abdicate a policy. They did nothing wrong, she said.
“I see a group of parents who were hopeful and energized in trying to put a team together,” Taylor said. “It’s been brought up there’s not enough parent involvement.” She praised the parents for being involved. “This is not a negative thing they’re asking.”
Member Robert Connors said he supports policy, but policies should be examined when they get in the way of things that are good for students.
“Our function is what is best for students.”