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story.lead_photo.caption California High School Photo by David Wilson / California Democrat.

The California R-1 School District Board of Education heard a proposal to bring girls soccer to the district at its meeting Jan. 23.

Desiree Vitale and Zack Hackett, district parents, prepared a proposal for the board outlining why they believed a soccer program would be a good option for California students. The pair was joined at the meeting by California Parks & Recreation soccer participants in a show of support for the proposal.

Hackett said the group feels that California would have the numbers to support a program, especially considering rec leauge participation. He said participation in the program has increased, with 55 participants taking part in the last season, a jump from 38 in the season prior.

Hackett said the idea with the rec league is to help fill the seventh- and eighth-grade participation gap, if the California program is able to join a league that can facilitate an increase in age level participation from its current sixth-grade cutoff, to feed into a district program.

"(Parks and Recreation Supervisor Leslie Scheidt) is going to work with her board and the city to look at joining a different league, so she would adjust how she operates her system now and change the schedule for soccer," Hackett said.

Hackett said this is an important move because students in California who are interested in playing soccer have no place to play once they hit seventh grade.

Vitale said the district could face a potential Title IX issue with its current male and female athletic offerings. She said though California High School offers dance and cheer as extracurricular opportunities, they are not considered sports by Title IX standards. Based on the numbers she received from the school district outlining student participation in athletics, Vitale said she believes there's a potential disparity between the amount of male and female participants.

"I think by offering soccer — specifically, women's soccer — at the high school level, I think that will provide an additional opportunity," Vitale said.

The group provided financial information from Jefferson City High School and Capital City's girls soccer programs, outlining a rough cost the California School District might anticipate for its own program. As far as finding teams to play against, the group rattled off a list of potential opponents to help fill out a schedule — fellow Tri-County Conference teams Boonville, Osage and Southern Boone; smaller schools such as Belle, Fatima and Dixon; and the high schools in Jefferson City. A full soccer season encompasses approximately 20 games in total.

"It would be a growing program," Vitale said.

Hackett said the group is hoping a good next step may be consideration from the board to send out a student/parent survey gauging interest more formally from current district families about any interest in a girls soccer program.

"If you guys and gals are willing to give these kids the chance, they won't let you down," Hackett said. "They will perform higher than you expect."

Along with the soccer proposal, the school board handled a number of other items on its agenda for the night. The board approved a change to the ballot language for the upcoming municipal election to reflect the two candidates that filed on the day of the deadline.

The board also approved a tuition rate for private sending schools at $7,500, which reflects no change from the previous amount.

Additionally, the board approved a change to the athletic handbook better outlining guidelines for dual sport participation. The handbook now states students are allowed to participate in a second sport during an athletic season only in which case that a season ends for one sport and matches remain for another ongoing sport.

The California R-1 School District Board of Education's next regular meeting will take place at 6 p.m. Feb. 19.

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