Posted 10/27/15 (Tue)
By Neal A. Shipman
After much deliberation by the McKenzie County Public School District No. 1 school board and school officials, the right call was made last week to dissolve its sports co-op agreements with Alexander High School and Johnson Corners Christian Academy.
For the past several decades, because of declining school enrollment, the school district had allowed Alexander and JCCA to be part of Watford City High School’s sporting programs. At the time the co-op agreements began, it made sense to come together for sports. Alexander no longer had the student numbers to field their own teams in football, basketball and volleyball. And JCCA simply never had enough students to have sports. At the same time, like every other rural school in North Dakota, Watford City High School was seeing a rapid decline in its high school enrollment numbers. So the logical option was to bring all of the students who wanted to play high school sports in the county under one umbrella - that umbrella being Watford City.
But as we have seen in the last several years, the number of students enrolled at both Watford City and Alexander have skyrocketed. In fact, Alexander’s enrollment has increased to the level that this year, the school district was once again able to offer football, volleyball and basketball as varsity sports. Which is great for the Alexander students, who now no longer have to compete against Watford City High School athletes for spots on the teams or for playing time.
At the same time, Watford City High School’s numbers had increased to the level that the school district was pushing the 325-student threshold that would require the Wolves to move to Class A in volleyball, basketball, wrestling, track and cross country. In fact two years ago, Watford City High School began its two-year transition to Class A sports and would have officially been competing at that level starting in the fall of 2016.
The logic of the McKenzie County Public School District No. 1 and the high school administrators when the two-year transition began was that Watford City High School’s enrollment numbers would top the 325 threshold, regardless of whether or not co-op agreements existed with Alexander and JCCA.
But that enrollment number didn’t happen quite as fast as the school district had assumed. As of Aug. 10, there were only 322 students enrolled in Watford City High School. Not enough to be eligible to make the jump to Class A. But when the two co-ops were counted, the high school had more than met the 325-student threshold.
Suddenly, the merit of Watford City High School keeping the two co-ops became even more complicated. One, Alexander, which was now offering varsity sports, no longer needed the co-op agreement with Watford City High School. And second, JCCA hadn’t had an athlete compete with Watford City for years.
Which is why it was the right decision by the McKenzie County Public No. 1 school board to dissolve the sports co-ops. The only students that would have been negatively impacted by the decision not to do so would have been those attending Watford City High School. And no doubt the North Dakota High School Activities Association recognized that fact when they approved the request to keep W.C.H.S. at the Class B level for the time-being.
No one is doubting that Watford City High School will one day reach the threshold and make the move to Class A sports. It could happen in two years.