If the Charleston County School District is looking for more level playing fields (figuratively), it ought to start with more level playing fields (literally).

Dr. Nancy McGinley, in her noble effort to build a better school system, sees the economic gaps in the “tale of two cities” that is one big Charleston County School District. The superintendent during her State of the Schools address Wednesday referenced a fresh study by Stanford professor Sean F. Reardon. His “No Rich Child Left Behind” piece published in the New York Times says family income now is a better predictor of children's success in school than race.

For Charleston, part of the solution is a standing CCSD proposal for middle school sports programs.

It would almost certainly get more kids involved in activities.

It might stimulate academic progress.

The idea calls for the school district to take over some sports programs currently run by private leagues at school facilities, while adding others for a complete package similar to the South Carolina High School League's multi-sport offerings.

And how about a little rugby?

More sports means more participation, always a good thing.

Check out this position statement from The National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE): “Participation in sport and physical activity programs outside of the regular curricular physical education program provides many positive benefits for middle school students when sound educational policies and qualified leadership are in place.”

Yeah, and you usually get a free T-shirt. Which can build self-esteem if properly laundered and worn around impressionable fellow students.

Vital mentoring

More from the NASPE: “All middle school students should have the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of organized sports and physical activities through intramurals, clubs, and school-sponsored co-curricular programs.”

School sports programs keep kids in a campus environment with professional educators in charge.

Engaged students will perform better in class, particularly if athletic eligibility — rarely tied to private league participation — is factored into playing time.

McGinley, a terrific athlete herself, also prominently mentioned the positives of mentoring in her State of the Schools address. Coaches traditionally have filled vital mentoring roles for boys and girls.

Of course, the CCSD concept is still without its first chalk line. Any public school district treads carefully into a new and complex plan estimated to cost $1.5 million.

The idea gained momentum as response to the Louis “Skip” ReVille molestation case. The former coach, teacher and Bible study leader spent three seasons as a volunteer coach of a Moultrie Middle School team in the Charleston district.

ReVille, 33, was arrested in October of 2011 and convicted last June, sentenced to 50 years in prison for molesting 23 boys.

A blurred tale

We have moved on to a recovery stage. It includes awareness, prevention and hopefully a sports initiative likely to impact more children than any program CCSD has unveiled in decades.

Almost all volunteers who have worked with CCSD kids in privately run sports programs are wonderful, well-meaning coaches. But bringing all programs in-house lends to a safer system.

Some tweaks are necessary. The initial proposal called for all coaches to come from the CCSD's pool of employees. To add or insure quality instruction, it would be nice if each sport at each middle school could have one outside volunteer — properly screened, of course — working under the CCSD umbrella.

Let's play ball, officially. Then maybe Charleston's tale of two cities gets a little blurred in a supervised, scrutinized, positive sort of way that we can all cheer for.

Reach Gene Sapakoff at 937-5593 or on Twitter @sapakoff