Iowa schools prep for merger

ARMSTRONG – As students at North Union have adjusted to changes via whole-grade sharing and consolidation, another change is on the horizon.

North Union – along with other Iowa schools in the Corn Belt and North Iowa conferences – have agreed to merge into a super-conference beginning in 2015.

But the Corn Belt conference dissolves after this school year, leaving five districts joining different conferences for 2014-15.

“If we had remained, we would have had a five-[team] conference, and we knew that was no longer viable,” said Robert Zotz, athletic director at North Union. “So for the 2014-15 school year, we are joining the North Iowa Conference, and then for 2015-16, [that conference] is merging with the Corn Bowl Conference.

“The North Iowa Conference, once we join, will have 11 schools in that conference, and the Corn Bowl conference has seven, so there will be 18 schools in this new conference, and we’re planning on having an east and west division.”

Along with North Union, schools involved include: Belmond-Klemme, Bishop Garrigan-Algona, Central Springs, Eagle Grove, Forest City, Garner-Hayfield-Ventura, Lake Mills, Nashua-Plainfield, Newman Catholic-Mason City, North Butler, North Iowa, Northwood-Kensett, Osage, Rudd-Rockford-Marble Rock, St. Ansgar, West Fork and West Hancock.

“Right now, we’re still developing what this conference is going to be named,” Zotz said. “The student councils from all these districts are helping come up with new ideas.”

Some choices so far include: North Iowa Corn Bowl Conference and Top of Iowa Conference.

Other upcoming steps include representatives from the Corn Bowl and North Iowa conferences working on a conference constitution, while athletic directors are working on scheduling details.

“The big focus is with the North Iowa conference, we have more teams and opportunity for the kids to play,” Zotz said.