School-choice transfers won't have to sit out

The NJSIAA voted to rescind the rule it made in November regarding athletes in the program.

Posted: January 13, 2012

ROBBINSVILLE, N.J. - Students who transfer under the school-choice program will not have to sit out 30 days to participate in varsity sports, the NJSIAA says.

The decision, announced Wednesday, was a reversal of a rule the state association instituted in November, when it said that school-choice transfers would be held to the same standards as other transfers - requiring varsity athletes who do not change residence to sit out 30 days before playing for their new school.

But NJSIAA officials said the state Department of Education doesn't want any impediments on students who transfer under the school-choice program.

"You follow the direction of the people you work for," NJSIAA executive director Steve Timko said.

Several members of the executive committee raised questions about the school-choice program providing an opportunity for receiving schools to attract athletes and build a strong sports program.

"Somebody could look at this situation and say, 'If I want to build a powerhouse team, become a school-choice program,' " said Gloucester City superintendent Paul Spaventa, a member of the executive committee.

The executive committee voted, 24-6, with five abstentions, to reverse the November decision.

Timko said athletic directors at sending schools can alert the NJSIAA if a transfer is suspected to be for "athletic advantage."

In that case, Timko said, the NJSIAA would conduct a hearing to determine the student's eligibility. But NJSIAA counsel Stephen Goodell said proving that transfers were made for "athletic advantage" has historically been difficult and would be further complicated by the nature of the school-choice program.

"This is an accommodation we can live with as long as we monitor the situation closely," Goodell said of waiving the 30-day rule for school-choice transfers.

Students have until Friday to apply to transfer to receiving schools in September. Around 80 New Jersey districts are receiving schools under the first-year program, which allows students to attend schools outside their district free of charge.

In South Jersey, 10 high schools are receiving schools, including five in the Colonial Conference: Audubon, Gateway, Lindenwold, Paulsboro, and Sterling. The others are Glassboro, Hammonton, Northern Burlington, Pemberton, and Ocean City.


Contact staff writer Phil Anastasia at 856-779-3223, panastasia@phillynews.com, or @PhilAnastasia on Twitter. Read his blog, "Jersey Side Sports," at www.philly.com/jerseysidesports

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