Change is coming to the Kern High School District and it’s going to make some people happy and ruffle the feathers of others.
The district has changed the policy for incoming freshmen that have been granted an open enrollment and have also eased restrictions on current high school students transferring.
Previously, incoming freshman that were granted open enrollment at a high school outside of the boundaries of their school of residence within the district were not eligible to participate in athletic competition for one school year. They are now immediately eligible.
With any change there is likely to be disagreements and the actual impact of the policy change may take a few years to fully understand, but Stan Greene, the district’s director of school support services, says this helps align the KHSD with the rest of the state which has lessened the restrictions on transfers in recent years.
“You have to start with the that fact that the CIF had much stricter policies,” Greene said. “Over time, the CIF policies lessened and ours did not.”
The decision was made earlier this month, well after the open enrollment for incoming freshman for the upcoming 2019-20 school year ended in January.
“Any student that received open enrollment (prior to cut-off deadline in January) for this coming school year is eligible,” Greene said.
Any current high school student that makes an inter-district transfer without a full-family move will be forced to sit out half of the regular season of their respective sport depending on the length of the season of that sport.
Greene stated the full-family move will still likely grant immediate eligibility.
“That was just a reasonable policy that if you are willing to move then you should be eligible,” Greene said. “When someone moves, they should have eligibility.”
The changes now makes the district more like the rest of the state when it comes to policies in place, but Greene knows there will still be problems.
“Any time you keep score of something, you will have people who try and gain the system,” Greene said. “That goes down to the root of competition. The root is if you show someone the rules, one will find loopholes. Someone is always looking to gain advantage.”
There will likely be conflict because less than half of the 17 schools in the district are under maximum capacity and have the room to accept inter-district transfers.
Centennial is one of those schools that is currently under capacity and can accept open enrollments, but even so, athletic director Tom Haskell states that many of the same rules are still in place beyond just allowing freshmen to participate in sports right away.
“You still have to be approved to open enrollment,” Haskell said. “We are so impacted in the district that there are only a few schools that have space to accept open enrollments.”
The other schools under capacity are Frontier, Independence, Kern Valley, Liberty, North, Shafter and West.
One of the schools that does not have room is Stockdale.
Amanda Hockett, the softball coach at Stockdale, knows all too well how the former policy affected her team.
Senior Taylor Hardin was ineligible to play her freshman year because of the previous one-year sit-out. Hockett believes there will still be athletes that may want to transfer without moving. And despite the campus she works on not having the ability to accept freshmen transfers currently, she is in favor of the move.
“I think it’s a good thing, but for us it’s a bad thing because we don’t have the opportunity for it,” Hockett said. “It allows the good kids that are good athletically to go and play for teams that are more competitive or on the opposite side, allow a kid to go play at a school where they might make more of an impact.”
Greene is concerned that there may come times where there could be a large group of athletes that live in one school boundary that may end up wanting to transfer to another school for a variety of reasons that could cause rifts.
“It has the potential to create bad feelings between schools,” Greene said.
Greene is also aware that there is already those in the community that will bend the rules for their own gain. But the policies, new and old, are going to be in place to help the students rather than hinder them. Whether or not this change will be for the better will take time to determine.
“Let’s be honest, we already have questionable enrollments throughout the district,” Greene said. “I think some of our policies have helped us well. I don’t think we will see the effects for a couple of years.”
There will be conflict because now parents have more availability to shop their middle school children around the district for the right environment, but for A.J. Shearon, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Shearon is the boys basketball coach at North and recently was hired as the campus athletic director. Much like Greene, Shearon believes the true test on whether this change helps likely won’t be known for years to come.
“I think any time you can give parents control over the education process for their kids, I am all about it,” Shearon said. “I think this is a positive for this district. Yes, there are some problems that may come up, but those are down the road. Aligning with the others around the rest of the section and state is a positive.”