Softball, baseball OK'd for Jackson Heights
Starting with the 2022-23 school year, Jackson Heights High School students will have the opportunity to play baseball or softball instead of — or in addition to — going out for track in the spring.
At the Jackson Heights USD 335 Board of Education’s regular monthly meeting on Monday, board members voted to approve baseball and softball programs at JHHS following a presentation by middle school boys sports coach and elementary teacher Jeremy Melvin, who noted that student and parent interest in possible ball programs at JHHS have increased in recent years.
The board voted 5-0 to start offering high school baseball and softball programs, although the vote wasn’t initially unanimous — board member David Holliday expressed concerns over how the high school track program would be affected, but voted to start offering ball programs in the end, saying he wanted “great opportunities for all of our kids” when it comes to high school sports.
Melvin noted that there is plenty of interest in the program from students inside and outside the district, saying that “a lot of kids from around the area” have contacted him about ball programs and told him, “You just give us the word, and we’ll probably be coming to Jackson Heights” to play ball.
Some district parents have also expressed enthusiasm for starting ball programs in the district, he added, noting that some parents have even talked with him about the possibility that if Jackson Heights doesn’t get ball programs started, they may send their children to schools where ball programs are readily available.
Costs for the first year of each ball program, Melvin told board members, would be $13,426.41, including the purchase of uniforms and equipment, coaches’ salaries and transportation and officiating costs. After that first year, he said, the annual cost would be little more than $10,000 for each program.
Melvin relayed information about city council meetings in Circleville and Netawaka, where ballgames will be played — softball in Circleville, baseball in Netawaka — and said he received enthusiastic responses from both councils about JHHS utilizing each city’s ball field.
District Superintendent Jim Howard noted that each town would benefit from having more people visit for games and noted that the school district would likely prepare a “memorandum of understanding” for each city to sign regarding use and maintenance of their ball fields.
“Down the road, if something comes up, we want to outline who’s responsible for what,” Howard said. “But it’s a good sign when they say, ‘We just want you to use it and we’ll worry about memorandums of understanding at a later date.’”
Melvin also noted that some students have expressed an interest in participating in both ball and track, although those students will have to decide which sport will be “primary” and which will be “secondary,” and they will have to work out practice schedule conflicts with the coaches. But, he added, “we have the coaches to work with who can make it work between track, baseball and softball.”
After meeting in executive session for five minutes with Howard and board clerk Sheri Dibbern to discuss supplemental contract negotiations for coaches, board member Melinda Wareham made a motion to start offering ball programs at JHHS. Board members David Allen, Doug Amon and Konrad Coe joined Wareham in voting to offer ball programs, but Holliday initially abstained from voting over concerns about the track program.
“Anytime you have two competing sports, who do you want? You want the best athlete, and so there’s going to be some natural competition in that respect,” Holliday said. “Just make sure you don’t kill the track program that’s done well… You can do track without a large number, but you can’t do baseball and softball without a large number… I just want to be as informed about it as I can.”
Holliday switched his vote to “yes” in the end after Wareham reminded those present that “kids are going to want to come here to school and play ball” and Melvin noted that some students have expressed more interest in ball programs than in track. Board members Matt Browning and Neal Keeler were not present for the meeting.