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September 04. 2014 8:37PM

Timberlane board OKs unified basketball program

PLAISTOW — Special needs students at Timberlane Regional High School will be able to play basketball this winter as part of the school’s unified basketball team.

The Timberlane School Board recently approved the unified sports program for the district, which has special needs students playing alongside regular education students and competing against teams from other schools.

The program is administered by Special Olympics through the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association.

“Having kids with disabilities and without disabilities teaming up and playing together, to me, it’s what we should have been doing a long time ago,” said Timberlane Athletic Director Angelo Fantasia. “I’m excited about the possibility of us starting soon. I’ve talked to a lot of athletic directors who tell me they are the best games they watch all year long.”

The games are typically played after school in January, according to Fantasia. There is flexibility to the schedule, and teams can play as few as four to as many as eight games in a season.

About 26 high schools in the state have unified basketball teams, and several local schools have expressed interest in competing against Timberlane, Fantasia said.

The NHIAA Special Olympics program pays approximately $2,000 a year for the first three years of the program.

In addition to basketball, the NHIAA also supports unified soccer, volleyball and track programs.

Superintendent Earl Metzler said the program helps special needs students feel fully included in the climate and culture of the school.

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