With academic sharing hopes stalled, schools looking elsewhere for options
The Laurens-Marathon school board has informed Albert City-Truesdale officials of its intent to discontinue the 28E athletics sharing agreement between the two districts after the 2003-04 school year, a move that would signal the end of the combined L-M-ACT programs in football, wrestling and cross-country.
L-M superintendent Michael Wright said the decision of the Laurens-Marathon board, which will not affect any athletic programs during this or next year, traced back to a Sept. 27, 1993, sharing agreement proposal between the two schools stating that the two districts would begin whole-grade academic sharing for grades 6-8 in 1994-95.
Under the proposal, students of both districts in grades 9-12 would have attended classes in Laurens, pupils in grades 6-8 would have attended school in Albert City and each district would have had its own K-5 building. In addition, varsity basketball and baseball games would have been played at Albert City, varsity volleyball and wrestling matches would have been held at Laurens, and varsity football contests would have been played in both Laurens and Albert City.
While several of the athletic sharing agreements have become reality since 1993, none of the academic agreements have been implemented, and Wright said his district decided to explore other options to see if future agreements could be reached elsewhere.
"What we did was look at the big picture," Wright said. "We haven't increased our sharing in an academic sense since in that time (1993) at all, and it was made pretty clear to us by the board representatives of Albert City-Truesdale that there wasn't the support in their community to do that. Since my time in the last six years we've based some of the decisions we've made with the idea of whole-grade sharing in mind, and we didn't feel like we were making any adequate progress towards that goal."
AC-T superintendent Steve Mitchell said he was surprised by Laurens-Marathon's intent to discontinue the athletic agreement, and said he feels keeping the current pact in place would be beneficial for both schools.
"The decision made years ago has been a real positive for the students," Mitchell said. "We've had a very productive football program, and we hope that the communities in the current school districts will continue it. It has been a good thing for the students, and when you have a good thing going, keep it going."
Both Mitchell and Wright said their districts have been investigating other options with a number of local schools in case an agreement between the two sides cannot be reached in the future.
"We have discussed all kinds of options," Mitchell said. "We've contacted some superintendents in the area to see what possible sharing opportunities there are for us, and we have received some preliminary figures and discussion points from those requests."
"We've had meetings with administrators from Pocahontas and Sioux Central so far, and they have been held to give us an idea of what things we could do together," Wright said. "We're not looking at any immediate agreements at all, because we definitely plan to honor the current agreement that runs through the 2003-04 school year, but right now we're looking at all possibilities."
Mitchell said he has sent a letter to Laurens-Marathon officials asking them to reconsider their position on discontinuing the athletic agreement, and both districts will be holding meetings on the issue in the future. AC-T officials will also be hosting four public meetings at the Albert City Public Library to receive input from the community on this and other school-related topics. The 9 a.m. meetings will take place on Oct. 26, Nov. 16, Feb. 3 and April 5.
Final decisions on the athletic status for both schools will need to be made by the fall of 2003 in order for the Iowa High School Athletic Association to make decisions regarding classification and districts teams will be placed in.