Slightly more middle- and high-school athletes in Beaufort County's public schools maintained their academic eligibility last school year under stricter requirements set by the school board in 2011.
Ninety-four percent of student-athletes met the 2.0 grade point average requirement -- up one percentage point from the fall and winter.
"Our athletes are fairing well in the classroom," district chief student-services officer Gregory A. McCord told the Board of Education at its Tuesday meeting.
"Athletic directors are doing well in being alert and sending reminders to coaches to monitor athletes' performance in the classroom -- not just on the field or court -- and provide the proper resources to help struggling students so they can continue to be part of the team."
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Of the 2,784 high school athletes in the district last school year, 160 did not meet the academic requirement, or about 6 percent.
That compares to about 13 percent of such athletes two years ago who had GPAs below 2.0, many of whom were still eligible to play under the old rules.
Forty-nine of 875 middle school athletes did not meet the academic requirement last school year -- down from 87 in the fall and winter.
"I was not for the policy when it began because I felt it put our students at a (disadvantage) to other school districts in the state they compete against," board chairman Bill Evans said Tuesday night. "I stand corrected. It's a wonderful thing. The thing that convinced me is the increase in the number of college scholarships students have received, which I believe is directly attributable to this policy."
About 60 district athletes from this year's graduating class accepted scholarship offers from colleges and universities around the nation.
The number of college athletic scholarships accepted by last year's graduating class were not available.
"I think we are moving in the right direction," board member Laura Bush said.
The policy was designed to exceed academic requirements set by the S.C. High School League, the sanctioning body for public schools and a handful of private ones in South Carolina.
The district requires student-athletes to maintain a "C" average to participate in sports. After-school tutoring is required for those struggling to meet that requirement. Those with a GPA below 2.0 for the previous semester cannot play again until they raise their grades and keep them up for a full semester.
The GPA requirement is based on the previous semester's grades, not cumulative GPA.
Coaches monitor students' grades weekly, McCord said, and bar those from playing in a game who fail to attend study halls after their average dips below 77 percent in any class.
Only one other state district -- Richland County School District 1 -- has a similar policy, McCord said.
High School League standards require students to pass four or five classes, depending on the semester, to participate in sports. A "D" is considered passing.
Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/IPBG_Tom