One minister says the request has nothing to do with a policy at West Branch schools.
By SUE DROTLEFF
SEBRING -- The Sebring Association of Churches has asked the schools to ban athletic events and practices on Sundays.
The Rev. James Hollingsworth, association vice president, said the issue was first discussed with school officials two years ago. At that time, he said, school officials said Sunday athletic practices were being held because there was only one gymnasium in the school district, and the opening of a second gym would end the need for Sunday practices.
However, the Rev. Mr. Hollingsworth, pastor of Freedom Community Fellowship Church, noted that Sunday open gyms and practices have continued despite the opening of the new gym last year.
Mr. Hollingsworth also stressed that the request, made by letter, had nothing to do with the recent uproar at neighboring West Branch schools over a similar issue.
Last month, the West Branch Local Board of Education approved limits on Sunday events, but that decision came under fire from residents at last week's school board meeting.
Mr. Hollingsworth said there is no written board policy regarding Sunday events, though there is an informal policy that athletic practices or open gym may be held Sunday afternoon from 1-5 p.m.
In the letter, the ministers note that the other school departments do not abuse the use of Sunday for events.
Mr. Hollingsworth said there were no objections to family-oriented school events on Sundays, such as concerts or the annual musical.
He said the association hoped the issue could be addressed and "some agreement reached without any pettiness or silliness."
He also indicated that the association would be satisfied with some sort of written policy that gives discretion to the superintendent to determine that athletic events could be held on Sunday under extenuating circumstances.
The examples he offered would be cancellation of school and practices because of calamity or inclement weather, or a tournament game scheduled for Monday, which might necessitate Sunday practice.
Superintendent Howard Friend said the concerns raised would be considered, but no changes would be made during the current school year, which ends June 30.
Any changes would be for the 2003-04 school year, and Friend will prepare a recommendation to the board about the matter.
The church association members include six Christian churches and a Methodist retirement center.