CORONA: Intermediate schools jump into sports program



Published: 04 October 2011 10:27 PM

Eighth-grader Ashley Arias said she joined the after-school basketball team at Auburndale Intermediate School because she wants to be tough inside.

Eighth-grader Caleb Taufi said the toughest thing for him is getting his homework done between 3 and 5 p.m., between after-school basketball practice and practice for his travel-ball club team.

The best part, he said, is representing his school in games against other schools at 6:30 p.m. every Thursday.

Auburndale Principal Robert Ibbetson said he remembers how being on the basketball team at Raney, when it was a junior high, made him feel connected to the school when he was a new student in the 1980s.

The intermediate schools haven’t had sustained sports programs outside physical education classes since ninth grade moved to the high schools, although there have been some intramural events or tournaments.

“We, the intermediate principals, felt it would be more conducive to school spirit to have student teams each play other schools once,” Ibbetson said.

He sought a grant from the Corona Norco Schools Educational Foundation. The after-school sports program at intermediate schools received $16,000 for basketballs and supplies like flip scoreboards, whistles and clipboards for coaches and uniforms, with reversible jerseys, for home and away games. Ibbetson said he expects the supplies will last several years.

The foundation awarded its first 33 grants, totaling $151,000, in 2010 for arts and music instruction, technology upgrades, academic intervention to help struggling students and after-school programs.

About 120 seventh- and eighth-graders are playing basketball after school throughout the Corona-Norco Unified School District. Ibbetson said he expects about twice that many to play soccer in the spring. Six of the seven intermediate schools fielded both boys and girls basketball teams.

The coaches are all volunteers, and high school student athletes volunteer as referees in crews of three, Ibbetson said.

Being on a school team helps students with leadership skills, team-building and cooperative skills, as well as building friendships. And it’s a fun form of exercise, Ibbetson said.

To stay on the teams, students must maintain a 2.0 GPA and good behavior, the same eligibility requirements as high school.

“We prepare students for success in high school,” he said.

It’s too early to see any academic benefits from the five-week old program, he said.

“I know of specific cases where it helped with behavior and motivation to do homework,” Ibbetson said.

“This is a great learning opportunity for them, on a small scale.”