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Menno board says 'no' to Freeman participation in football co-op

Freeman Courier of Freeman, South Dakota

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The Menno Board of Education last week decided to not receive Freeman School District into the current varsity football co-op between the Menno School District and the Marion School District.

The discussion took place at the most recent regular meeting of the board Monday, April 13.

The decision came after the board received a request from the Marion School District about inviting Freeman into the current football co-op. Marion, who will enter the second two-year phase of a football co-op with Menno in the 2015-16 school year, recently dissolved a multi-sport cooperative with Canistota and is looking to possibly form an all-sports cooperative with Freeman.

Freeman, which suffers from low participation numbers in football, is interested in a cooperative that could help bolster the program. They have expressed an interest in a sports cooperative with Marion that would include football, but since Marion is committed in football to Menno, any expansion of that cooperative would need to come with approval from the Menno Board of Education, as well as the South Dakota High School Activities Association.

Dr. Chris Christensen, superintendent for the Menno School District, said there are obstacles to adding Freeman to the cooperative. He said the combination of the three programs would force the team to move to an 11-man format, which would be an issue because the two-year scheduling cycle has already been set by the South Dakota High School Activities Association for Menno/Marion as a 9-man football team.

"Basically, if we allow Freeman to come in, we would be in 11-man. But our schedule is already set," Christensen said.

An alternative, Christensen said, would be to play as a 9-man team despite having a team roster that would classify the team as 11-man. The team could play the next two seasons with the current Menno/Marion 9-man schedule, but the team would be ineligible for playoffs.

The Menno/Marion Razorbacks have made the playoffs in each of their two previous seasons as a cooperative team.

"We don't want to be ineligible," said Kevin Edelman, chairman of the board of education.

Members of the Menno Board of Education had mixed feelings on the issue. Henry Bender, a member of the board, said there was little to gain from allowing Freeman into the cooperative at this stage.

"I don't understand the benefit," Bender said.

Christensen said allowing Freeman into the co-op would help set the stage for the end of the upcoming two-year scheduling cycle. With Marion prepared to form a larger sports cooperative with Freeman, the chances of renewing the Menno/Marion cooperative are slim.

"The benefit would be with what happens in two years. Marion will likely go with Freeman," Christensen said.

Edelman said allowing the addition could make a difference in how things play out after the upcoming two-year period.

"Do we want to be involved in the process? What's best for the kids," Edelman asked.

Jill Haberman, a member of the board, expressed concern about the size of a three-school cooperative. With a larger roster, local student athletes could get less playing time.

"It's almost getting too big," Haberman said.

Somehow involving Freeman junior varsity students in the program, however, could be beneficial in maintaining good relationships between all three schools, Edelman said.

Despite the current scheduling issues involved with adding a third team to the cooperative, board members were interested in taking input from the public about the varsity program as well as possibly including Freeman in football at the sub-varsity level.

"I'd kind of like to know what our parents are thinking," Haberman said, noting a public meeting with an emphasis on public input would be helpful.

Teresa Mettler, another member of the board, agreed the public should be involved in any final decisions by the board.

"At the end of the day, it's a community decision. Maybe that will give us a clearer direction," Mettler said.

The board agreed to continue discussions with the Marion district and examine the possibility of more meetings on the subject.



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Original Publication Date: April 22, 2015



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