• Fri. Jul 1st, 2022

Esports is coming to Springfield Public Schools this fall

ByMary M. Ward

May 21, 2022

Funding to start an esports program at Springfield high schools was approved this week over objections from a council officer who described the extracurricular activity as “problematic.”

Board Vice-Chair Maryam Mohammadkhani raised concerns about the impact of competitive video gaming – also known as esports – on the physical and mental health of participants.

“We are developing the minds of children and … it behooves us to look at it from the perspective that we don’t have enough data to know it’s not harmful,” Mohammadkhani said.

Mohammadkhani said she was not in favor of purchasing recommended hardware and software for the after-school program at a time when the district was “making an effort to balance the use of screens” among students, at her request. .

She was the only no in the board’s 6-1 vote to approve a list of contracts, agreements, change orders and offers including $59,520 to buy 60 laptops and related accessories for the esports program.

Superintendent Grenita Lathan said the decision to add esports this fall was based on input from students and athletic director Josh Scott.

Superintendent Grenita Lathan

“I asked ‘What’s missing?’ and what do we need to keep students engaged,” Lathan said.

Lathan said, in her entry plan unveiled in December, that esports is one of the fastest growing activities in the world and has the “potential to reach students who are not currently engaged in traditional athletics”.

She said the games played would be age-appropriate and noted that esports is offered by a growing list of Missouri colleges, including locally.

The Missouri Scholastic Esports Federation, founded in 2019, reports that there are more than 100 middle and high schools – representing at least 2,000 students – who participate in esports.

This group’s summer conference will be held July 29-30 at the Ozarks Technical Community College.

Esports is regulated by the Missouri State High School Activities Association and each team will have a personal sponsor and must follow state guidelines.

This week:4,400 Springfield children will receive free books for summer reading from SPS District

John Mulford, assistant superintendent of operations, said the plan was to bring esports to high schools. At this point, colleges are not included.

“We’re always looking for new ways to involve kids and so this is one more activity kids can get involved in,” Mulford said. “He also tends to target a group of students who may not be involved in physical sports.”

Board member Steve Makoski said extracurricular options like esports help students become productive citizens and learn new skills. He called the start-up cost “good value.”

“It’s starting to open doors, opportunities like scholarships,” Makoski said.

Maryam Mohammadkhani

Mohammadkhani said research indicates that adults who engage in competitive games may show increased aggression and depression, in addition to physical health risks.

“It hurts those people just like it hurts people who play football and basketball, in a different way,” Mohammadkhani said.

Board member Danielle Kincaid replied: “Are we going to cut that funding as well?”

Mohammadkhani said she does not offer this and supports providing students with a range of extracurricular activities.

She suggested the district use esports funds to upgrade the software used to filter unwanted content on student devices so there are fewer distractions during class time.

She also questioned buying “high-performance” computers for gaming, not the school curriculum.

“We choose to do it for extracurriculars, but they’re stuck with Chromebooks in their classrooms — which they’re already playing on,” she said.

the the district recently took steps to reduce the use of technology in the early years and he plans to “restore the role of technology” in the district, provide more training for staff and assess the types of devices used, particularly at the secondary level.

The council was told to expect a report with recommendations in early 2023.

Board chair Denise Fredrick said colleges, including some in Springfield, are now offering scholarships for esports.

“It’s extremely popular,” Fredrick said.

Denise Frederick

Fredrick said the district has expanded after-school options in recent years based on demand, including archery.

“I went to one of the first archery tournaments at Parkview,” she said. “It was amazing to see the number of students who had never participated in any other sport because they just weren’t your typical student who would go out to play basketball or football or track and field. “

Fredrick said esports could see the same success in the district.

She said research shows that when students engage in different activities, grades and attendance go up and discipline issues go down.

“I’ve heard this over and over again from teachers and coaches,” she said.

Claudette Riley is the News-Leader’s educational reporter. Email news tips to [email protected]eader.com.