USD 259 Approves New eSports Program


Courtesy Southeast eSports

In addition to new computers, the team also received Omen brand monitors and headsets and Hyperx, MSi and War Falcon peripherals.

Tammy Nguyen, Reporter

Videos games are no longer just a hobby, they are now an official school-sponsored activity as the Wichita School Board voted to approve the funding of an eSports program.

On July 30, Rob Dickson, USD 259’s Chief Information Officer, proposed the idea for the district to support an eSports program. He asked for $544,400 in funding to go towards 320 new gaming computers for the participating schools as well as the enrollment of the five high schools in the High School eSports League for three years. His plan was approved with a 6-1 vote by the board of education.

Other than the entertainment aspect of eSports, Dickson says there are educational benefits to this program as video games help develop problem-solving skills.

 “Games today are different because as you think about going through that game, that game is going to adapt. In that point in time, whenever that game adapts because of technology, such as artificial intelligence and others, both the presenter and the solver have an unknown method by which they’re going to approach that problem. By turn you get a huge amount of situational awareness, a huge amount of skill in strategy, and you start to have kids connect the dots to critical thinking,” Dickson said.

The program also allows high school eSports players to be eligible for receiving scholarships as well as other opportunities that will go towards their futures.

“Last year, there were 20 million dollars’ worth of scholarships to students for college,” Dickson said, emphasizing the opportunities that students maybe experience through playing video games at school.

Coach Kyle Schoenhofer of the Southeast eSports team saw the difference this program would make in the lives of the young video game fanatics.

“I’m really excited about the educational opportunities this is gonna’ bring to some of these kids who’ve played these games for a long time,” Schoenhofer said. “They’re going to unexpectedly be able to use that skills set that they’ve developed over the last few years to give them real chances and real opportunities.”

With the eSports program’s funding from the district this year, the Southeast team is looking forward to acquiring new equipment for the upcoming season.

“Last year, I had students who were using their own equipment,” Schoenhofer said. “…people were bringing keyboards with missing keys. They were using headphones that were designed for cellphones and not for gaming. They were using mice that didn’t have extra buttons, so they were at a serious disadvantage based on the lower quality of their equipment and that’s understandable.”

“New computers would be—would mean everything to us,” Jr. eSports team member Jessica Methman said, “as some people from home don’t have the best quality PCs or equipment to play with, and sometimes it doesn’t show their true potential and how they actually play.”

Even though they did not have the most up-to-date equipment last season, the Southeast team was able to place second in the “League of Legends” PlayVS Spring Split 2019 competition, an outstanding placement for a first-year team. As they earned this incredible achievement, the Southeast’s team is seen as the group that paved the way for the eSports program in Wichita schools.

“It feels pretty nice to be part of the founding group, I guess, for eSports in Wichita Public Schools,” Jr. Minh Nguyen said, a support player of the League of Legends team.

“It feels like we’re the next big thing,” Jr. Desmond Simmons, Captain and DSP player of the Overwatch team, said.

With the expansion of eSports in the Wichita district, players of the Southeast team are ecstatic about the future possibilities of eSports for students.

“I hope that we can get most of the schools around the Wichita area to play for the eSports league,” Soph. Aiden Jones, Overwatch team member, said.

The district is expanding the program to four middle school and three high school, in addition to Southeast. In the upcoming future, the program should be expanding to all secondary schools.