Education chair explains sports playing, RESA bills

By Jeff Jenkins

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Kids who go to private or parochial schools where there are no sports programs would have a chance to play public school sports in the bill that passed the legislature on the final night of the regular session Saturday.

The original version of the bill (HB 2196) only provided a path for home schooled students to play public school sports but the Senate added an amendment that would open that up to kids who go to private or religious schools but only if their schools are without any sports, House Education Committee Chair Paul Espinosa (R-Jefferson) said Monday on MetroNews “Talkline” Monday.

“This is if they don’t have an athletic program at their school,” Espinosa said. “This will be able to provide for those (students) at smaller, private parochial schools.”

All students, home schooled and those from private/parochial schools, would have to meet certain requirements including showing academic progress, abiding by all WVSSAC regulations for traditional students and paying fees that are charged by some schools. The students could only play sports at a public school in their district.

The legislature also approved the bill (HB 2711) that eliminates the state’s eight Regional Educational Service Agencies. The services will still be available but it will come from school districts instead of services mandated from the state, Espinosa said.

“They could create what would be known as educational services cooperatives. The cooperatives (between county school systems) could hire staff and provide a lot of the services that RESAs provide today,” he said.

The bill also gives flexibility in the school calendar.

“School systems can accumulate five days of time that they can use to offset snow days that are missed. That’s based on a commitment to extending the school day by 30 minutes per day,” Espinosa said.

The system can accumulate five additional days that can be used for teacher collaboration. The collaboration days, which would be days off for students, would count toward the 180 instructional day requirement, Espinosa said.

The RESA bill originally came from Gov. Jim Justice. It will be up to him whether to sign it or not.