NEW LONDON — By the time ice hockey season arrives, Kearsarge girls could be playing with and against other girls rather than with the boys.

The Kearsarge Regional School District (KRSD) School Board voted to allow a three-school cooperative agreement during its Sept. 6 meeting.

If approved by the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association (NHIAA), Kearsarge students will be able to join the already-established co-op between Stevens High School in Claremont and Lebanon High School.

Currently, Kearsarge girls who want to play hockey play on the boy’s team.

Athletic Director Scott Fitzgerald explained that there are approximately four girls interested in playing hockey this season, but that number could increase if the co-op is approved.

“It is quite an intimidating venture to play against boys,” Fitzgerald said.

Besides being matched against athletes that are often bigger than them, Fitzgerald suggested that girls might be alienated by the physicality of play in boys hockey. Girls hockey prohibits checking, for example.

Kearsarge Regional High School Principal Rob Bennett added that the district loses students to private schools over this issue. There are also several athletes who play with Kearsarge Youth Hockey Association.

Fitzgerald is looking to get the co-op started this year, where it will initially hold club status.

“We’ll go through the traditional two-year period to see if it's sustainable and something the district would like to support financially and then make a recommendation,” he said. “But that’s a few steps down the road.”

According to the NHIAA Handbook, co-ops are a way to “provide educational-based athletic opportunities for schools that may not be able to provide those experiences for their students.”

Earlier this year, the board voted to allow the district to enter into a co-op with Mount Royal Academy.

A co-op would have widened the available options for Mount Royal students by allowing them to play different sports at both schools.

However, the NHIAA Executive Council rejected the attempt to form a co-op for a variety of reasons.

Whether or not the NHIAA approves this latest agreement will be determined in October. Fitzgerald will report back to the board with the NHIAA’s decision.

The rest of Thursday’s school board meeting focused on the presentation of each school building’s recommended budgets.

The principals of each school explained major increases and reductions to both the KRSD School Board and the Municipal Budget Committee.

The budgets presented include measures to replace old furniture, purchase new textbooks, secure online integrated teaching tools and install a kiln to be shared by Simonds School and Kearsarge Regional Elementary School at Bradford.

School Board Chair Ken Bartholomew asked each principal what they would do if given an extra $100,000. Answers ranged from increasing support for early intervention to installing air conditioners.

Bartholomew also asked what principals would cut in their budgets if they had to reduce their budgets by an equal amount.

Every principal answered that a reduction of that amount would require cutting personnel.

The 2019-20 budget is projected to represent a 1.64 percent increase from the previous year’s budget, though there will be a separate warrant article for a new teaching contract to replace the one that expires this year.

“It’s a remarkable testament to the administrators and staff for finding a way to keep our spending within our means,” School Board Member Andrew Pinard said.

Budget season will continue Sept. 13, with the presentations for technology, facilities, special education and other areas.

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