On Wednesday evening the high school committee voted to allow middle school and charter school students to play for the regional high school girls softball team.

Softball has been a part of the spring sports teams at the regional high school for decades but was in danger of not being able to field a squad this year due to lack of turnout.

“A softball team has been around since at least the 1970s,” athletic director Mark McCarthy said. “But the last time we were able to field both a JV and Varsity team was back in 2018.”

About 50 other people attended the hybrid meeting via Zoom, while about two dozen more participated in the school library to debate granting the waivers.

“The high school varsity program really struggles with numbers,” head coach Samantha Burns said at the meeting. “We haven’t had a youth program on the Island for a number of years — probably more than 10 or 12 years now — so this is kind of something we saw coming.”

With no feeder schools for the high school program, Ms. Burns and assistant coach Kelly Bowse began offering public softball clinics in 2017 to develop younger players.

“We had 78 Island girls between the ages of 6 and 14 sign up,” recalled Ms. Burns, who co-founded the Sirens youth league with Ms. Bowse in 2018.

But youth play, along with high school play, was stalled by the pandemic depleting rosters even further. Only 10 girls tried out for the high school team this year.

“That is really not a legitimate number to host a softball program,” Mr. McCarthy said.

Ms. Burns said there are about five middle school girls who have already expressed interest in playing with the high school team this spring.

The school committee has already permitted middle school boys to play ice hockey with the high school team, and girls basketball coach Melissa Braillard said it is becoming a regular occurrence for younger girls to play on high school basketball teams elsewhere in the league.

“I think a lot of schools are turning to this model,” Ms. Braillard said.

Still, school committee members Kathryn Shertzer and Robert Lionette expressed concern about the high school recruiting younger players away from their own peer groups.

“I say it, I think, every year, I want to support the kids who want to play … but it so rubs me the wrong way to have 12 year olds and 18 year olds on the same team,” Ms. Shertzer said.

Mr. Lionette suggested the small number of high school players could indicate insufficient interest in girls softball.

“I’m not comfortable supporting something that just doesn’t seem to be there,” he said.

But Rick Mello, the high school’s network administrator and the father of a former softball player, energetically took the coaches’ side.

“The 2020 team would have been a pretty good team,” Mr. Mello said to the committee. “Kelly and Sam did a ton of work with the Sirens in 2018 and 2019 and they were seeing [the] results from that come up.”

“You’ve got to give it a couple more years,” Mr. Mello added. “To hear people suggesting it should be closed down is disgusting, in the tail end of the pandemic.”

With Mr. Lionette as the lone dissenting vote, the committee voted in favor of the waivers for middle-school and charter school students to play on the high school team.