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Chattanooga Christian School's Matthew Mercer (16) runs the ball as Notre Dame defenders chase during the first half of the TSSAA Class 3A playoff game.
Our parents have cleaned CCS since the school opened so I couldn't, in good conscience, tell them their children would no longer be eligible for high school athletics beginning in 2017.
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Chattanooga Christian School's Leah Hoffman, left, and Boyd-Buchanan's Emma Rogers keep pace with the ball during Thursday's soccer match at Boyd-Buchanan. CCS won 1-0.
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Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 11/7/14. Notre Dame's Ricky Ballard (5) reaches for a pass in the end zone as Chattanooga Christian School's Zach Mercer (11) and Ben Moore (24) defend during the first half of the TSSAA Class 3A playoff game Friday, November 7, 2014 at the Fighting Irish’s home field.

The first domino from last week's TSSAA ruling on public/private schools has fallen. Chattanooga Christian School is the first private school currently playing against public schools in Division I to announce it intends to move to Division II when the rule goes into effect beginning with the 2017-18 school year.

According to TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress, all schools have until October of 2016, when the state's governing body begins working on classification issues, to give notice of intentions to either compete in Division I or D-II.

"The reality is when the TSSAA made those changes, some of our parents saw it and knew it would affect them," said CCS president Chad Dirkse. "The new bylaws really don't give us a choice so our board and administration felt it's better to go ahead and let our current,and future families know our intention."

Last Tuesday, the TSSAA's nine-member Legislative Council voted in five new proposals directed at resolving the decades-old public school/private school debate. Among the new rules that were passed was an addition to the TSSAA bylaws definition of "financial assistance program" to include all part time employment, which are currently used to offset the cost of tuition.

Also passed was a ruling that if tuition is charged it must be paid by the parent, bona fide guardian or other family member. Additionally, any part-time employment that involve the sibling of a student-athlete would also be considered financial aid and would force a school offering that assistance to move to D-II.

The new rules put the onus on the individual schools to determine whether they will discontinue financial assistance and work-study programs to remain in D-I or continue those programs and switch to D-II. For now, the area's other private schools that currently play in D-I — Boyd-Buchanan, Grace Academy, Notre Dame and Silverdale Baptist — have not made a public decision on the issue.

According to Dirkse, CCS has 134 part-time employees who are paid for working as either custodians or teachers (either substitute teachers or part-time class instructors) as well as middle school coaches who are paid as part-time employees.

"We have families that do custodial work as part of how they can afford to send their children to CCS," Dirkse said. "Our parents have cleaned CCS since the school opened so I couldn't, in good conscience, tell them their children would no longer be eligible for high school athletics beginning in 2017."

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