Worthington News

Private-school students eligible for TWHS, WKHS extracurriculars


A Worthington youth who attends the private Wellington School in Upper Arlington is now eligible to play football at either Thomas Worthington or Worthington Kilbourne High School.

A Worthington student at Watterson High School may take part in the mock trial team at one of Worthington's high schools.

Those are two of a long list of possibilities that exist because of House Bill 59, which went into effect Sept. 29.

The new state law is in the process of being written into Worthington's policies on interscholastic athletics and extracurricular activities. The district has no choice but to eventually approve the new wording of the policies, which were introduced during the Oct. 14 Worthington school board meeting.

The law requires public schools to allow students who attend private schools or community (charter) schools to be permitted to take part in interscholastic athletics and extra-curricular activities at the public school in their neighborhood.

Students who are home-schooled also are covered by the law, but Worthington's policies already allowed home-schoolers to participate in activities at the school to which they would be assigned.

The activity must not be offered at the private or community school the student attends, and he or she must meet academic and other participation requirements of the public school.

The law pertains to any athletic team, organization or performance group offered at the public school where the student resides.

Even if the student's private or community school does not offer student council, he or she could become a member of the student council at the school to which he or she would be assigned.

No students are taking advantage of the new law yet, but Worthington Kilbourne High School athletics director Jeff Todd said he has received inquiries about soccer, baseball and mock trial.

Checking on students' academic and other eligibility requirements is one of the main challenges expected to be faced by local school officials.

"How do you keep track of that in someone who doesn't go to our schools?" board member Jennifer Best asked.

Thomas Worthington athletics director Scott Dorn said it would take some investigative work.

During an interview following the meeting, district administrative-services director George Joseph said checking the academic qualifications of a private-school student would be easier than checking the grades of a home-schooled student.

The state requires only that home-schooled students be tested twice a year by a certified teacher, he said.

"At home school, it's like Burger King," he said. "They can have it their way."

Board member Charlie Wilson said when it comes to allowing private-school students to participate on teams, he prefers that the district err on the side of not permitting the student to play rather than risk forfeiting games.

Allowing private-school students to participate in Worthington sports and activities might be a way to re-engage parents in the district, to show them what a great job the schools do, board president David Bressman said.

"I view this as an opportunity," he said.