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Hancock school board members discuss expansion of middle school athletics

NEW CUMBERLAND – The Hancock County Board of Education Monday tentatively discussed the idea of expanding the athletic offerings in the county’s middle schools, with officials noting it will be a long time before a final decision is made.

The issue had been requested for discussion by board member Chris Gillette, who participated by phone in Monday’s meeting.

Gillette said he had been approached about the idea and began working with others to see if there was any interest, noting the group had focused its attention only on Weir Middle School.

Gillette would later explain he had sought the information through his role with the Weirton Baseball Association, and not representing the school board.

“I didn’t want to overstep my bounds,” Gillette said, admitting he wasn’t sure of the process to be followed on such a matter.

Currently, the county’s middle schools offer football and basketball programs. Gillette had suggested the possibility of adding baseball, softball and soccer.

Board President Danny Kaser cautioned Gillette not to “put the cart before the horse,” adding there are many details which must be worked out.

“We have not moved in any direction,” Kaser said, explaining while he is not against the idea, he feels more information is needed before the board can take any action. “I have some concerns.”

Kaser raised issues of playing locations, which grade levels could participate, transportation and potential scheduling and opponents.

Board member Michelle Chappell also noted there currently is no budget for such an expansion, with board member Larry Shaw noting the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission may also have some input on whether the programs could be offered or whether others should be discussed.

Kaser recommended Superintendent Dawn Petrovich meet with the middle and high school principals and athletic directors for their input.

In other business, the board from Weirton resident Edwin J. Bowman about what he said were reported plans to build a new baseball field on the campus of Weir High School. Bowman said he feels this would be an unnecessary expense for the school board, noting Weir High currently uses a field operated by the Weirton Parks Department.

“It matches up to any field in the valley,” Bowman said, explaining the Park Board is working to invest in several improvement projects.

The field, located in Municipal Plaza, was named after Bowman in recognition of funds he was able to secure while serving in the state Senate.

Kaser, speaking later in the meeting, explained the idea of a baseball field is part of a feasibility study being conducted for the board, but no final decision has been made.

“We have made no commitment in any way, shape or form,” he said.

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