Crossville Christian School has asked to form a cooperative athletic team with Stone Memorial Middle School sports programs.
The application comes after the board granted a one-time exception to a Crossville Christian student last spring to play baseball with the middle school team. The player had been found ineligible after practicing with the team for several months.
Countywide Athletic Director Dean Patton told the school board athletic committee, “This season we said we would require a co-op.”
The committee agreed to send the request to the full board for action, but it did not vote to recommend the co-op.
Jim Inman, 1st District representative, said the proposal could open a “Pandora’s box.”
“Once you open the door, there’s going to be more come through the door,” Inman said. “I’ve got mixed feelings about it.”
The cooperative agreement would allow students at Crossville Christian to participate in all middle school sports with the Stone Memorial teams: football, baseball, golf, softball, soccer, golf and volleyball. Elementary schools operate individual basketball programs.
“If someone from Crossville Christian wants to play basketball, they would have to form a co-op with a specific elementary school,” Patton said.
The Stone middle school program includes the elementary schools that feed into Stone Memorial High School: Stone, North, Crab Orchard, Homestead and Pine View elementary schools.
The school system is required by state law to allow homeschool students to try out for athletic programs. Those students must try out for the school they would be zoned to attend based on their residence. In a co-op system, residential zoning does not apply.
“Any student at Crossville Christian, regardless of their zoning, would have to play in Stone Middle,” Patton said.
The agreement only applies to middle school sports, and the school cannot co-op with both the Stone Memorial middle school and Cumberland County middle school athletic programs.
High school cooperative athletic programs have specific guidelines that must be met to ensure eligibility under Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association rules.
Patton said the board could continue to grant an exception for the single player, but not grant the co-op.
“We can continue to allow him to play because of the mistake that was made and run him through the system,” Patton said.
Josh Stone, 4th District representative, said he was fine with granting the co-op, especially since that is what school board policy requires to allow a private school student to participate in public school athletic programs.
“I know a lot of times in these discussions people say, ‘They chose not to send their child to our school,’” Stone said. “But these folks are paying property tax and sales tax. They’re helping fund our schools whether their kids go here or not.”
“I still want to help those kids. I’m here for the kids in this county whether they’re in our schools or not.”
Inman said he had mixed feelings about the agreement.
“I understand they pay taxes. But I also feel our programs ought to be for our students,” Inman said.
He moved to send the agreement to the full board for consideration without a recommendation from the committee, supported by 9th District representative Stace Karge.
During the discussion, board members learned homeschool students were eligible to try out for school athletic programs under state law. Inman said he was unaware of that law.
“If we have to open it up for the homeschool, OK,” Inman said.
Stone said the private school was following the policy established by the board.
Patton said, “The main thing is we have a paper trail that we’re covered liability wise for having this child on our team.”
Inman said the current medical coverage provided by the school was not sufficient.
Patton said the school had indicated it would add the student athletic medical premium if the board approved the co-op. Athletes are required to have personal medical insurance, as well.
“We offer catastrophic and liability coverage,” Patton said.