Possible conference merger moves ahead

BLUE EARTH – Athletic director Rob Norman updated the Blue Earth Area School Board on Monday about the much-discussed merger between the Southwestern Conference and the South Central Conference for sports.

Norman recently met with the athletic directors of the 12 other schools contemplating the merger. The proposed conference has the unofficial name of The Big South.

Norman said the projected miles traveled and projected time out of school has been calculated.

“Not increasing our travel that much. It’ll be pretty bearable overall,” he said.

He explained how the schools would be split into East Division and West Division. Blue Earth Area is currently in the East Division, which includes Fairmont, New Ulm, St. James, St. Peter and Waseca. The West Division includes Jackson County Central, Luverne, Marshall, Pipestone, Redwood, Windom Area and Worthington.

Norman covered line by line how it would work for each of the sports. Some teams might play double-headers, or hold a game at a site halfway between competitors’ hometowns.

“Our best option is to stay with this conference,” Norman said.

He thinks the East/West configuration could work logistically.

Board chairman Frankie Bly said some of the 13 schools have tried to enter other conferences, but weren’t accepted.

Board member Jesse Haugh is in favor of scheduling more events on weekdays, leaving weekends free for family time.

Board member Dawn Fellows sees a problem with long trips, especially if students have homework to do after they get home late.

“WiFi on buses,” suggested David Sparks, technology coordinator.

Some schools do that already, pointed out Rich Schneider, high school principal.

“I think the projected time should be firmed up a little more,” Fellows said.

“That projected time is 90 percent accurate,” Norman said.

“This can be very workable. We need to give it a year and see how it goes,” Bly said.

Norman said he and the Luverne athletic director will meet with the other schools’ superintendents on Oct. 31.

“Right now, they’re all basically saying they’re on,” Norman said. “They want an official response in November.”

In other action, the board approved:

o A resolution for financial support of student activity fees for students who qualify for free and reduced lunches.

The grant, sponsored by the Minnesota State High School League, helps students take part in activities they otherwise could not afford.