The McPherson USD 418 Board of Education accepted the addition of seventh-grade sports for the 2013-2014 school year.
The action has been discussed throughout the school year and must still be approved for final implementation. This vote likely will occur during the next board meeting Dec. 10. Accepted board decisions usually result in final approval, but it is not guaranteed.
Other schools in the MMS consortium — Hays, Great Bend and two Salina schools — have added football, volleyball, basketball, and cross country. This left few options for filling McPherson's eighth-grade schedules because the other districts said they would not schedule McPherson match ups unless absolutely necessary because it did not have seventh-grade sports.
These schools added these sports because, like McPherson, they were denied admittance into the Pioneer League and were faced with a similar problem.
“I always knew we would be adding seventh-grade sports sometime while I was on the board, I just didn't think it was going to come down this way,” Terry Krier, board president, said to the board and McPherson Middle School assistant principal Brandon Simmelink. “I thought it would be more, ‘This is a good idea, we need to do it,’ rather than being held hostage. I know it’s not your fault, but I definitely feel like the other schools have pushed us into the corner when that might not have been what we wanted to do at the time.”
The McPherson board previously agreed to add seventh-grade sports if admittance was gained into the Pioneer League, but once this was not achieved, it seemed as though discussion had ended. During the previous board meeting, however, the topic was back on the table when the consortium schools left little room for match ups.
“It gives us more opportunities for students to be move involved in school,” Simmelink said of making the change. “Typically students who are connected are better students.”
The school plans to continue to apply for admittance into the Pioneer League every year. This is because it would allow middle school students to play the same schools they would in high school.
“I think this will be a good start,” Simmelink said. “Our long-term goal is to get into the Pioneer League, and that will give us more consistency seventh through 12 grade.”
The addition of seventh-grade sports would include about $21,000 in coaching salaries and more than $11,000 in equipment needs.
Superintendent Randy Watson said the school faces a tough market to obtain coaches at this cost. He also said the change will put additional pressure on facility use, forcing some athletic groups to practice at unusual times.