Jackson schools to insure students' activities

Friday, June 25, 2004

All high school athletes in Missouri are required to have accident insurance to participate in sports, but as many as one in six may not really have coverage.

Citing that statistic from the U.S. Census Bureau, officials in the Jackson School District have opted to pay for up to $50,000 in insurance coverage for each student participating in sports and other activities, such as band and scholar bowl, sponsored by the Missouri State High School Activities Association.

The district will pay $8,618 to St. Louis-based Lawrence E. Smith & Associates Inc. for next year's coverage, which will apply during practices, actual events and travel to and from association-sponsored activities.

Assistant superintendent Jim Welker said that in the past, students were required to sign forms stating they have insurance in order to participate in any sport, but the form never guaranteed that students really did have coverage. For those students who do have insurance, the district coverage will also pay for any deductibles attached to that primary insurance.

"This makes sure everybody has coverage, and even if they do have insurance this will help," Welker said. "And it gives the school district peace of mind."

The state activities association provides insurance for catastrophic injuries exceeding $50,000. This remains in place. School officials said their insurance change allows them to close the gap that has existed between the cost of less significant injuries and the $50,000 amount.

Cape Girardeau School District does not offer coverage similar to Jackson's. All Cape Girardeau student-athletes are required to sign a form stating they have insurance.

"We're not in a position to pick up any new coverage," said Rob Huff, assistant superintendent. "Students do fill out a form for every sport saying they do have insurance and what kind it is, but we don't call every company and check that."

Huff said in the past, the high school booster club has helped some Central football players pay for insurance since coverage for that sport is higher than for other sports.

Jackson's new insurance will cover eligible students in seventh through 12th grades.

Welker said around 70 of Missouri's 524 school districts have opted to provide the extra coverage. With uncertainty still surrounding Jackson's finances, some school board members questioned the additional cost of the coverage when it was presented to them at Tuesday night's meeting.

"It's a nice gesture, but is this a cost the school district needs to absorb?" board member Cathy Goodman said at the meeting.

In the end, the board approved the coverage unanimously.

cclark@semissourian.com

335-6611, ext. 128

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