By Tim Leeds/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
The Joplin-Inverness School Board voted Monday night to combine the junior high teams of J-I and Blue Sky schools.
The Blue Sky board hasn't yet voted on the issue. The Blue Sky superintendent said today his district may also want to discuss combining the two districts' high school teams.
J-I Superintendent Ed Warner-Combs said today his school board decided that the decreasing numbers of students in J-I schools could make it hard to field teams in the future. The junior high students will probably form cooperative teams in basketball, track and possibly football, he said.
"We are going to be low on numbers in the junior high," Warner-Combs said.
Blue Sky Superintendent Terry Grant said today his school board will discuss the possibility of joint junior high teams at its Feb. 18 meeting and likely also will take up combining the high school teams.
"If we're looking at the junior high, then a few years down the road we would have to look at the high school," he said. "We have talked about it. We would just as soon take a look at combining all across the board."
Montana High School Association executive director Jim Haugen said schools that don't have enough competitors to form a varsity team can form a cooperative team.
"The purpose of cooperatives is so every kid got to play a sport their school didn't have," he said.
If the school can form a varsity team, it can't co-op with another school unless they're working toward consolidation, Haugen said.
Grant said his school district is very aware that the declining numbers of students is hurting the district's future.
"We realized the need five years ago. That's why we were discussing consolidation," he said.
Warner-Combs said the J-I school board will consider forming co-op high school teams with Blue Sky, even if it could require consolidating the school districts.
However, the district is not planning to consolidate at this point, he said.
"We have to sift the need," Warner-Combs said. "It would be false to report something that might or might not happen."
Blue Sky and the Kremlin-Gildford High School already have a cooperative eight-man high school football team.
KG Superintendent John Ballard said KG Public Schools is not considering forming more joint teams now.
"We've discussed it previously. At the time it didn't appear to be the best thing to do," he said. "If we continue to decrease (in number of students), we'll have to do something differently or the kids won't have the opportunity."
KG and Blue Sky discussed consolidation last year. After a consultant presented findings, including recommendations that Gildford house a school for kindergarten through sixth grade and Rudyard house a school for seventh through 12th grade, the KG school board voted not to continue with consolidation.
Ballard said that if working to consolidate in order to allow cooperative teams is needed, his school district would reconsider the idea.
Grant said the need for Blue Sky to co-op more high school activities could arrive in several years.
"We have good numbers now," Grant said. "It should be good for a year or two, but if we don't have a JV program," the quality of the sports programs will drop off.
Blue Sky and KG soon might not be able to field enough competitors to keep their eight-man football team going, he said. At that point the team would have to drop to six-man or be discontinued.
Grant said that if schools don't offer teams, students might leave school districts to go to schools that offer events they want to compete in.
He said he knows of students transferring for that reason already, and has heard of other families considering transferring students.
That also impacts academics, Grant said. As students leave to go to schools with more activities, that reduces the size of the student body. That, in turn, cuts into class size and funding, he said.
"If school districts don't get things lined up soon as far as consolidating, it's going to impact us academically as well as athletically," Grant said.