North Platte's middle schools will play football, basketball and volleyball against other schools next year, the school board said Tuesday night. The vote was unanimous.
Eighth grade students from North Platte's two middle schools -- Adams and Madison -- will combine to create the sports teams.
Currently, those three sports are played in intramurals (within the schools), while eighth grade sports teams compete with other schools in wrestling and track.
North Platte Athletic Director Mark Mroczek has said the new sports teams would not travel more than an hour and 15 minutes each way to games, under current plans.
Superintendent Marty Bassett said overall costs won't increase, largely because fewer paid intramural coaches will be needed.
Bassett said practices will be held at one school or the other depending on the sport. A bus will pick up student athletes after school, take them across town to practice and bring them back.
Bassett foresees having one head coach in charge of each 8th grade sport with one or two assistants.
He said there could be three teams, possibly more, on A, B and C levels. Every student who wants to play those sports will be on the teams, with no cuts, he said. Intramurals will be held for students who don't.
Bassett also said a new assistant athletic director will be hired in the high school, and part of the job will be to keep the new eighth grade teams organized.
He said an activity fee will probably be set, and businesses will be invited to help underwrite the costs in return for sponsorship recognition.
Mroczek has said competitive sports against other schools help athletes understand the commitment involved, play together as a team and help them build more relationships. And, the games will develop more school, parental and community support.
Bassett agreed with all that. He also indicated the program might expand to other grades in future years.
The board's decision caps a year of informal discussions, he said.
Parent Michael Bose also spoke. Bose has two boys who play on a traveling club team that is sponsored by parents. He said the program will help families who can't afford the costs of the traveling club teams, and give athletes more drive to stay involved in sports.
And he said it will build community unity.
"There is a lot of competition now between the middle schools," Bose said, "but we're all Bulldogs."
In other business Tuesday, the board approved the school calendars for the next two school years, with school starting each year on Aug. 14 and ending May 15.
Boardmembers have heard a handful of complaints about the early start date, but said starting so early means the first semester will end by the Christmas break.
It was the last meeting for board member Justin Schwartz, who officially resigned. Schwartz, a vice-president with Nebraskaland National Bank, said he is making a job-related move out of town.
There are two years left on Schwartz's term. He represents Ward 2 in the southwest part of the city. Someone will be appointed to fill his term. Applicants must live in that ward and be registered voters. They can send letters of interest to Bassett at the central office -- McKinley Education Center, 301 West F St.
Other board members thanked Schwartz for his two years on the board, noting that he was part of the finance committee and the negotiating team when teachers' contracts were set.
Former principal Jim Whitney was officially hired Tuesday to teach seventh grade social studies at Adams Middle School. Whitney has filled in since Jan. 3 for a teacher who resigned.
The board also accepted these resignations: Sue McKain, music teacher at Washington and Eisenhower; Tamara Miller and Dennis Murry.
Bassett had no comment on the suspension of Washington principal Shane Alexander, except to say an investigation is underway that should be complete within two weeks. Meanwhile, Alexander is on paid leave.
At the end of the meeting, the board went behind closed doors to discuss teacher contracts.