Volusia County middle schools are striding forward with a new cross country program this fall as the Volusia County school district expands its sports offerings for both boys and girls.

The program, presented to the Volusia County School Board during its Tuesday night meeting at the DeLand administrative complex, will begin in August with team selections, with student athletes taking the starting line in October.

The program will accept a maximum of 50 male and 50 female students from each school. Participants will be bused to one east side school – Silver Sands Middle – and one west side school – Heritage Middle – for four meets on Wednesday afternoons, with the season culminating in November with a county championship.

“The draw to this is how many kids it’s going to affect,” Silver Sands Principal Amanda Wiles told board members.

The sport, composed of 2-mile runs, will get students “out and active,” Wiles said, noting many middle schoolers don’t have the ability to participate in middle school activities because of transportation.

Officials estimate the program will cost the district about $77,000, with expenses like two coaches per school; uniforms, which they estimate will be under $10 per jersey; water for students; and timing equipment.

The timing equipment will add up to the steepest cost of the sport, Wiles said, as each runner has to wear a chip to track their start and end times across mats during races.

But the sport could also bring in a maximum of $97,500 as students have to pay $75 to participate, unless cross country is their second sport. The only other sport currently offered to middle schoolers in Volusia is basketball, which has been available for more than 10 years, officials said.

The sport will go miles to keep students active and “engaged at middle school,” said School Board member Carl Persis, a former middle school principal.

“It’s something girls and boys can do equally well,” Persis said, adding that if the district starts notifying students of the additional athletic opportunity at the end of the school year, they can start training over the summer and potentially recruit friends to join.

In other news at Tuesday's meeting, district officials updated the School Board on the status of projects funded by the half-cent sales tax, which include building and renovations, new security measures and technology investments.

Among the top building priorities covered by the half-cent sales tax is a replacement for Chisholm Elementary in New Smyrna Beach. The district has put the project out to bid with a hope to start construction on June 1, said Saralee Morrissey, director of planning.

The district is also planning replacement schools for George Marks Elementary in DeLand and Deltona Middle. The elementary school held its first community meeting in January, while the middle school had its first visioning session in January.

The project that is furthest along is Pierson Elementary, which has been under construction since June. The campus is scheduled to be completed by June.