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Academic-eligibility requirements have taken such a toll on the extracurricular programs in the Inkster, Mich., school district that officials there are considering changing conditions for participation.

Tough eligibility standards, which many districts nationwide have adopted, diminished participation in after-school activities across the board and wreaked havoc on a few high school sports after Inkster put them in place in 1993, school officials say.

This year, for example, only 15 students qualified for the Vikings 22-man football roster. And academic suspensions have forced the Inkster baseball team to forfeit an entire season.

The rules, designed to raise academic performance in the 2,300-student district, require that students participating in school sports and clubs pass each of their classes with a C average or better.

The new eligibility proposal, which the Inkster school board will consider in mid-November, would allow students to participate in extracurricular programs if they pass five of seven classes with a grade of C or above and maintain a 2.0 grade point average. If, for example, a student receives a D, he or she must balance it with an A or a B in a different subject.

School officials partly blame their dilemma on Michigan's limited open-enrollment policy. Schools Superintendent Jim Rutter said that some students have fled Inkster to attend schools in neighboring districts with lower or no grade specifications. Others, he said, have chosen to sit out a season or a high school career because they were deemed ineligible.

As a result, the superintendent said, school spirit suffered, and the district has been passed over by talented students who feared they wouldn't be able to take part in their activities of choice.

"Good grades will always be our number one priority," Mr. Rutter said, and under either policy, students receiving low grades get tutoring and are tracked by a progress report.

Mr. Rutter said that the proposed rules still require a C average and are tougher than those of neighboring districts.

"We weren't willing to cheapen our [academic] expectations," Mr. Rutter said.

George Thompson, Inkster's athletic director and a Michigan High School Hall of Fame coach, said he resented the assumption that the proposed change was "all about winning games."

He said it was only fair to align Inkster's academic rules with those of other Michigan schools. "It has nothing to do with the price of milk as far as winning any football games."

--KERRY A. WHITEkwhite@epe.org

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