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Will open enrollment create imbalance?

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Munford High School basketball coach Butch Hopkins has worked in school systems that had open enrollment policies. 

Tipton County Schools, because of a state law passed earlier this year, will have open enrollment next school year. 

The results, according to Hopkins' experience, were mixed. 

“There were some good, some bad,” said Hopkins, who has coached at several schools in West Tennessee over his 40-year career. 

“One situation I was in, it was open enrollment, but it was open enrollment one way,” Hopkins said. 

Hopkins said, because of small-town politics, student-athletes were only allowed to transfer to a preferred school. 

There are no indications that will be the case here. 

According to the new open enrollment rule, students in the county system can move within the system from school to school, in between school years and regardless of grade, as long as space is available. 

However, the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association, which governs high school sports in Tennessee, controls participation in sports. 

Here's how that breaks down in a nutshell:

For example, an eighth-grader at Crestview Middle School could transfer from his or her district to Munford High School, if space was available. 

That student could play a sport for MHS as a freshman. 

However, if a freshman who had participated in a sport at Brighton High School wanted to transfer to Covington High School for his or her sophomore year, that student would not be eligible to play sports at CHS until their junior year. 

TSSAA rules state that transfer students are ineligible for 12 months from the last participation date. And that counts practice. 

The one-year waiting period would seem to prevent very many student-athletes from moving from high school to high school. 

But there could be some movement from a middle school in one town to a high school in another. 

Hopkins said he has seen that happen in some of his other stops and watched one school prosper in a sport while the other school declined. 

"My first six years there it was a battle to have the kids who were supposed to come there," Hopkins said. "If it gets that way, it won't be good."

Bibb, a former coach himself, is fully aware there is a possibility some parents could want to move their kids for athletic reasons. 

"Are people going to move for those reasons?" Bibb said. "You may have some. But they need to be aware of the TSSAA rules and the transportation piece of it too ... We'll  have some coaches' meetings to make sure whatever's done is in the best interest of the students. Positive experience is the main goal of athletics. We want every child to have a positive experience."

Brighton High School basketball coach Darryle Rogers has coached in the Memphis area, where open enrollment has been in place for several years. 

He said he focuses on academics and encourages his players to do the same. 

"It could impact the sports landscape (here)," Rogers said. "If it helps the school and the student-athlete, that's fine. Sports is  just an extra-cirricular activity anyway. They're student-athletes. When you put the athlete before the student, some kids miss out. As a parent and also as an educator, I'm looking at the kids' future as far as academics and preparing them for life. If sports happens to give that kid an avenue for that, open enrollment could help."

One rule has not changed: High school coaches are not allowed to talk with middle school athletes who are not in their feeder program. 

In other words, a coach at Covington High School is not allowed to "recruit" an eighth-grader at Brighton Middle or Munford Middle. 

Crestiview Middle feeds Covington High, Munford Middle feeds Munford High and Brighton Middle feeds Brighton High. 

Even though students can now pick a different high school if space is available, the feeder school rule remains in effect. 

Hopkins believes the rule could help everyone involved. 

"If a kid has a feeling he wants to go to Covington and that's where he wants to go, he ought to be able to do that," Hopkins said. "If a kid wants to come down here, he should be able to do that."

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