Saying that students will rise to meet expectations, the Howard County school board last night approved the toughest academic eligibility standards for high school sports and extracurricular activities in the Baltimore area.
Board members also discussed the decision by Howard schools Superintendent Michael E. Hickey to replace the cover of the school system's calendar because the cover photo was deemed by many to be racially insensitive. Most members said they support the decision to remove the 43,000 covers but questioned the cost and time it will take for new ones.
With the new eligibility policy, the board decided that Howard high school students must have at least a 2.0 grade-point average and no failing grades to be eligible to play sports or participate in extracurricular activities.
"I feel strongly that if we set high standards and expectations for students, they can strive to meet them," board member Linda Johnston said. "If an activity is so important to students, they should do enough" to stay eligible.
The board also eliminated a provision that allows failing students to improve their grades early in the season and regain their eligibility.
But a divided board decided not to eliminate summer school as an option for students to make up failing spring grades and become eligible for fall activities.
Howard's current policy requires students to maintain a 2.0 grade-point average to be eligible but also allows them up to one failing grade.
Other area school systems allow either one or two failing grades, and most do not have agrade-point requirement.
The new policy will take effect for the winter sports season and will apply to all Howard students who participate in extracurricular activities -- about 70 percent of the county's 10,100 high school students.
In discussing the calendar flap, Hickey further defended his decision to spend as much as $5,700 to reprint the cover of the school system's calendar to replace a photograph deemed by many as racially insensitive.
Hickey said the photo -- a candid snapshot showing white students in the foreground and African-American and Asian students in the background -- was "an unacceptable representation of the school system's beliefs and diversity."
Hickey said he would have had no problem with the photo if it hadn't been the only one in the calendar.
A local printer not identified by Hickey has offered free printing, Hickey said, and the school system hopes that much of the work to remove the old covers and put on the new ones can be done by volunteers.