The No. 1 priority of the Challis school district is academics, Superintendent Lani Rembelski told trustees in her first report of the new school year.

While sports and other extracurricular activities can affect academic achievement positively, too many games can negatively impact students’ grades, Rembelski said. She sought direction on how many games are appropriate for a sports season.

For example, Challis athletes played five basketball games during one week last year. They were tired and probably less able to focus on classes. With a four-day school week, scheduling games is complicated, particularly at the junior high level, Rembelski said.

If a season consisted of 21 games in the past, “maybe we don’t schedule all 21 games” in the future, she said. Coaches want as many games as possible and that’s OK as long as academics don’t suffer, she said.

Athletic Director Jennifer Piva tries not to schedule as many games with long travel distances, but it’s difficult because Challis is a member of multiple conferences, depending on the sport.

“I personally don’t think we should go to games out of state,” trustee and former girls’ basketball coach Jim Chamberlain said.

There are 20 boys’ basketball games scheduled this year, Piva said. If Challis plays eight or so games a year, it’s tougher for the team to compete at state or district tournaments, she said. Scheduling 16 to 18 games a season is realistic, Piva said.

“I am a sports fan,” Rembelski said. “I participated and my kids did, but sports can take away from your education.”

Schools want to stay away as much as possible from scheduling games on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Piva said, but that’s not always possible. She’s tried to schedule games on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, but officials like to take weekends off, so games get scheduled earlier in the week. Piva can’t always schedule two games on a Thursday or two on a Friday, because there aren’t often enough bus drivers to get two teams out of Challis. Some schools only have one gym which limits scheduling. Challis has two gyms, which makes multiple home games on the same night easier.

Junior high seasons have changed, further complicating things. Wrestling used to start in January and now begins in October, Piva said, as does basketball.

In other business, the school board members were told it would cost $4,326 to install curtain dividers in the boys' locker room, as are already in place in the girls' locker room.

Every middle and high school student now receives individual counseling to make sure each youth is on track to complete the necessary courses to graduate ontime, high school Principal Kari Alexander reported. Parents can be involved in the meetings if they choose.

“I will assign a teacher to be each student’s mentor,” Alexander said, and they will check in regularly with their students to make sure they’re on track. “It can take just one adult to turn a student around,” she said. “I want to catch kids that are falling through the cracks. I want our graduation rate to be 100 percent.”

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