SPORTS CO-OP AGREEMENT ON THE TABLE
JEREMY WALTNER – PUBLISHER
A sports cooperative between Freeman’s two schools and Marion took another step forward Monday night, March 8 when the Freeman Public School Board reviewed a document outlining what the partnership could mean for all three schools involved.
While not finalized, and while no action was taken, members of the Freeman School Board appeared to support what they saw and agreed to take the next step — hosting a special school board meeting and inviting the public to learn more and ask questions.
That meeting has been scheduled for Monday, March 22 beginning at 7 p.m. at the school.
Assuming things move forward in a positive direction, officials are aiming to have a cooperative approved by the South Dakota High School Activities Association (SDHSAA) at the board’s April meeting, even if all the details have yet to be worked out.
“The activities association knows we’re working on this,” Freeman Superintendent Kevin Kunz told the board, and said that all the SDHSAA board of directors needs to know in April is whether all three schools have signed on to the agreement. “A lot of it can still get changed.”
The working 10-page document has been assembled in partnership between representatives from the three schools, which all appear to want to make something work.
“There was pretty good consensus that this is a good start, but everybody is going to have to be willing to work with each other,” Kunz said. “I don’t think there will be a lot of issues.”
The sports agreement as presented to the board on Monday night is for the years 2021 to 2025 for the sports of boys and girls basketball, volleyball, track, cross-country and golf. Marion and Freeman Academy will be joining Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan for football and Freeman’s football cooperative with Canistota will continue.
Kunz said the four-year window was presented “to give it a chance to work,” he said. “I don’t know that two years is going to do it; I don’t know that that’s a fair evaluation process.”
Several of the Freeman Public board members suggested that four years might be too long initially and that three would feel better, especially since that would put the cooperative on the same schedule as the SDHSAA uses for realignments. Kunz agreed to the point.
“Three might even make more sense than four,” he said.
Under the proposal, Freeman Public’s schedules for 2021-22 would be used and the new cooperative would play as part of the Cornbelt Conference. As proposed, the co-op would operate under a 50/30/20 split between Freeman Public, Marion and Freeman Academy, respectively, when it comes to hosting games and sharing expenses.
There was also a question about eligibility requirements and grade checks, Kunz said, which is something that still has to be worked out. He did note, however, that all three schools agree that it needs to be consistent across the cooperative.
Kunz said home-schooled students would be allowed to play without any attendance requirements or grade checks, per legislation that was passed by the South Dakota Senate this past session.
Kunz also said this arrangement would help the student-athletes compete at the appropriate level, with fifth and sixth-grade basketball at Freeman Public returning as a school-sanctioned program (as opposed to parent led). In theory there would be enough students to run a 5/6 program, 7/8 program, and junior varsity and varsity programs all on their own.
“Ideally, you’d get A games, B games and C games,” Kunz said. “That would be the hope.”
Board member Mark Miller spoke in favor of seeking public input and Corey Gall encouraged patrons of the district to share their feelings.
“Voice your opinion as soon as you can in the next month; that would be a great thing,” he said. “There are little things we can tweak yet, hopefully get to consensus among all schools and have a nice sports co-op.”
Click here to see the UPDATED working agreement between the schools.