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Havre Public Schools allows eighth graders into high school sports

Editor's note: A version of this story was posted on the Havre Daily News website Wednesday. Watch for more in upcoming editions of Havre Daily News.

The Havre Public Schools Board of Trustees voted 6-1 Tuesday evening to allow eighth graders to participate in Havre High School sports, excluding football, at the discretion of the school's coaches and athletics director.

Class A schools across the state have been moving to allow eighth graders to participate in high school level sports and some Havre High coaches, particularly for the Havre High wrestling team, have been pushing Havre Public Schools to follow suit to "even the playing field."

Wrestling team leadership has said that there are multiple weight classes that they can't even compete in because they cannot recruit eighth graders, and because other schools they compete against can, they are left at a significant disadvantage.

The trustees discussed the matter at their June meeting but ultimately decided to table the matter so they could have more time to consult with school staff and make an informed decision.

Some members of the board voiced concerns at the previous meeting, particularly when it came to team sports, fearing that high school students would be left out, having been replaced by eighth grade players.

At Tuesday's meeting new Havre Public School Superintendent Brian Gum, who has been on the job for about a month, recommended that the board approve eighth grade participation in high school sports, but only when spots cannot otherwise be filled by high school students.

After much discussion and public comment, which was largely positive, the board voted to allow for eighth grade participation, but at the discretion of the coaches and the Havre High School actvities director, not just when there are open slots.

Multiple board members said they support the participation of eighth grade students, but they don't want to micro-manage coaches who should be trusted to make the right calls for their teams when it comes to the potential participation of younger students and how that will affect their teams.

Before the vote, Trustee Jake Ingram proposed an amendment to the original motion, stipulating that while individual sports could recruit eighth graders without restriction, team sports would only be able to do it if there are openings.

The amendment was voted down 5-2 with Ingram and Board Chair Tim Scheele voting in favor and all other present trustees voting against it.

Trustee and Board Vice Chair Christin Hileman was absent from Tuesday's meeting.

After more discussion and public comment the board voted on the original motion to allow eighth grade participation without restriction and it approved 6-1 with Scheele voting against and all others voting for.


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