LIMA — The Lima school board decided Thursday to loosen up on grade-point average requirements for students wanting to play sports or get involved with other extracurricular activities. Students will be required to have a 1.5 GPA instead of the current 1.75. Officials believe the move will increase opportunities for students and keep the district aligned and competitive with other schools.“We are not lowering, we are aligning the GPA,” Superintendent Karel Oxley said. “This is an aligning issue to make sure our students have the same opportunity as all the others in the county and new league.” Athletic Director Jim Offenbaker brought the proposal to the school board last month after the athletic board of control approved it. The board voted Thursday with no discussion, but board President Dennis Williams said later that board members talked with coaches.“We are not lowering the standards by any means. What we are doing is we are going to try to get more kids involved in extracurriculars,” he said, adding that coaches listed lowering the GPA requirement as the best way to get students involved and better the programs.Williams said the board did not hear much from the public since getting the proposal last month.Most all of the area and Three Rivers Athletic Conference schools are at 1.5 or below. A few do not have a GPA requirement. The Ohio High School Athletic Association requires that high school students pass five credits toward graduation in each grading period. Middle school students must pass five classes. It is up to individual school districts to set GPA standards. In the conference, St. Ursula Academy now remains the only school with a 1.75 requirement. The majority have 1.5. Toledo Central Catholic and Whitmer require 1.0. Notre Dame Academy does not have a GPA requirement. Locally, the majority of schools are already at 1.5. Some are lower, like Kenton and Bluffton at 1.0. A Bluffton student can have no more than one F. A few schools, including Bath and Allen East, do not have GPA requirements. Elida and Shawnee require a 1.5 cumulative GPA. Most are based on quarters.Lima schools has seen some decline in students participating in athletics. In the 2008-09 school year, 413 high school students participated. That dropped to 382 the following year. In 2010-11, 377 participated and 317 are this school year.Numbers show that more students would be able to participate with the lower GPA requirement. Based on fourth-quarter grades last year, 51 more high school students would have been able to participate under the 1.5 requirement. Forty-four would have based on this year's first quarter, followed by 71 and 57 the last two quarters.Twenty-seven middle school students would qualify based on first -quarter grades this year, 31 in the second quarter and 37 in the third quarter. Oxley said Lima schools students need the chance to get involved with extras. “There is not a person in this community who would not prefer for students to be involved in organized programs with excellent role models then to be on their own,” she said, adding that research shows students involved have a greater opportunity for increased student achievement.Williams believes that being an athletic or other extracurricular program will actually increase GPAs. “If they are under the wing of a head coach, they are being watched and certainly I think these kids stand a better chance at succeeding and graduating,” he said. “We want to keep our kids in our programs. We want to keep them in our schools. We want our students to graduate from Lima city schools.”Individual coaches can still set their own academic guidelines. Oxley said it is a concept the district has repeatedly looked at, saying that learning that some schools do not even have GPA requirements accelerated the change. The GPA requirement also includes other activities like student council, Homecoming court and school plays. Things like marching band and choirs, where students receive a grade, are not included.