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Originally published Thursday, October 20, 2011 at 9:26 PM

Federal Way schools dealing with ineligibility issue

Many athletes at Decatur, Federal Way and Jefferson high schools were declared in danger of being academically ineligible for not meeting district standards.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Jefferson coach Dean Peck was enjoying Monday Night Football when he got a call from high school's athletic secretary, informing him that 36 players in his football program were in danger of being academically ineligible for their next game, because of the Federal Way School District's standards.

"The list went on and on," he said. "I wasn't enjoying the game after that."

By Thursday afternoon, as students had taken the opportunity to meet the required standards in the classes in question, the number was down to eight, according to Peck, and included no starting players.

So it appears the Raiders (4-3 overall and in the South Puget Sound League 4A North Division) will be close to full strength Friday night for their game against Mount Rainier (0-6, 1-6).

Football wasn't the only program originally shaken up. Of Jefferson's 340 fall athletes, 160 received notice they were not meeting or approaching standards set through the new districtwide Standards Based Education (SBE) grading system. By 4 p.m. Thursday, the number had dropped to 55.

The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) mandates statewide grade-checks anywhere from three to six weeks into the school year. By WIAA rule, student-athletes must be passing five of six classes (or six of seven) to be eligible to compete. At schools that follow only that guideline, an athlete could be receiving six D's and an F and still be eligible.

The Federal Way School District set possibly the toughest standard in the state in the mid-1990s as student athletes cannot be receiving any grade lower than a C in any class to remain eligible. What changed this year is how those grades are calculated based on the "essential knowledge and skills needed in the classroom," said Jefferson AD Ron Ness.

The Federal Way High football team, which is unbeaten and ranked No. 8 in Class 4A, had "a bunch" of players in jeopardy Monday, according to coach John Meagher. By Thursday afternoon, just two special-teams players were on the list.

"I've learned over the years not to freak out," he said, noting the original number — which he did not divulge — was about the same as last year.

Beamer football coach Dave Sundheim said Thursday he had "seven or eight" players still ineligible. The have until the end of the school day Friday to regain eligibility. Decatur started the week with 39 ineligible athletes, and now has 38, according to athletic director Rex Turner.

Jefferson was hardest hit in part because of software glitches with the new SBE program that affected schedule changes and the ability for students and their parents to regularly access their academic standing. Plus, the school just went from a six-class to seven-class day. Both Ness and Peck said the bugs are being worked out.

Peck also stressed that the problem was not truly indicative of the academic abilities of his players.

"Academically, I'd put these guys up against anybody," he said.

Sandy Ringer: 206-718-1512 or sringer@seattletimes.com

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