Some athletes in Danvers may have to study a little bit harder if they want to participate in high school sports starting this winter.
The Danvers School Committee is considering raising the standards of academic eligibility for the town's high school athletes as part of the 2012-13 Student/Parent Handbook, which passed for first reading on Monday night.
The current eligibility requirement stipulates that students who wish to participate in athletics at Danvers High are allowed to fail one class, but can have no more than two D's in any other major subject areas, physical education, foreign language, and classes graded as pass/fail excluded.
If the new policy passes as proposed, athletes would be required to pass all major classes, with no more than three D's, in the last marking period prior to a season. According to Assistant Principal Mark DeCiccio, foreign language would be counted as a major subject so that "it's less of a drastic change" for students.
Fall eligibility would be determined by final grades from the year before.
Most schools in the Northeast Conference have a higher standard than the minimum set forth by the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association - which requires that students pass four classes per quarter - and Danvers would be latest district to raise the bar even more. The eligibility policy in Salem Public Schools changed this past May.
Beverly has the most stringent policy on the North Shore, requiring students to pass all classes with no more than two D's, and Danvers looks like it might be headed in that direction.
"I was actually surprised at how much leeway there was," said School Committee member Eric Crane. "Because really you can sort of be just kind of scraping by and not lose your eligibility."
Chairman Arthur Skarmeas agreed.
"I don't think it's really asking too much to have them be passing every subject," he said.
According to Assistant Superintendent Susan Ambrozavitch, the idea was brought up last year. She says that feedback from parents since then has been overwhelmingly in favor of raising the standard, with the biggest concerns surrounding what the school would do to help students who are most at risk of missing out on extra-curricular activities due to their academic performance.
The issue will be discussed at the next School Committee meeting on September 10.
"One of the things is that if you take away the extra-curricular that the kid loves, the incentives to even do this well could be taken away," Crane said. "On the other hand, you want students to have to really work to be able to play a sport...it's a tug of war to some extent as to how you approach it."
Ryan Mooney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mooney_ryan.