By Sterling McGinn

Anyone who frequents high school athletic events knows that there is a state-wide shortage of game officials.

In an effort to get students interested and to help solve the challenge of finding referees, Tahquamenon Area Schools (TAS) is offering an elective for students to train and learn to be a game official. The decision was made at TAS Board of Education’s regular monthly meeting on Monday, November 20.

Newberry High School Principal Trevor Clark introduced the program to the board. Newberry High School Athletic Director Anthony Kitzman is also working on getting the program started here.

“The idea is to have a course that trains our students to be referees and officiators at games,” explained Clark. “There are many different referee options—football, basketball, ice hockey—any one of the sports we offer, they would be able to ref.”

The program can be offered as a stand-alone course, or as an physical education enrichment.

“Each student would have to choose a course, which would be a sport to referee,” Clark said. “In each course is various modules. Each module goes through the different aspect of refereeing for that sport.”

Videos in the modules show actual referees officiating a game. Before a call is made, the video is paused to let the student to make a statement as to why that particular call is made. Once the student makes the statement, the official on the video explains why he or she made the call.

“It is $45 per course per student,” Clark said. “So, if a student does three course a semester, that would bring us to $135 per student to be certified as a ref for those three sports. The MHSAA would then waive the $70 fee for licensing.”

The course can be offered to members of the community for the $45 course fee, though community members would have to pay the licensing fee.

“Even [after graduation], they can still access the updated course to see any updates on rules and updates on planning,” said Clark.

Students aged 14 and up take the courses. Following the training, the student can officiate sub-varsity games down to middle school games. After graduating and turning 18, they can referee varsity level games.

After discussion, the board voted to approve the RefRep course offering for the second semester of the 2023-2024 school year.

In other business, the board of education received a letter from Newberry resident Kathy Dzelak is seeking support to allow for herself, and other adult members of the community to come into the school during the day in shifts, to monitor the hallways to help reduce incidents with students vaping in bathrooms.

“I think there would be some hoops to jump through, but I think this is a positive,” said Board President Stuart McTiver. “There would have to be some trainings and rules for what they could and could not do and background checks.”

No board action was taken that evening. TAS Superintendent Stacy Price said she has been reaching out to districts that have similar programs.

Price also updated the board on a grant opportunity. TAS is applying for the 31aa School Mental Health and Student Safety grant, which would provide funds for student safety, mental health, or a combination of the two.

“The State of Michigan said that there has been money set aside in past years for school safety,” Price said. “It was a competitive grant brought out by the Michigan State Police. Mental Health has come into play in the last three years and the state this year has put the two together.”

“There is a certain amount they will give based off our student count. They are roughly telling us now that it could be $100,000 to our district.”

Price has placed a survey on the TAS Facebook page seeking input on where the district should focus the grant funds.