Clarion-Limestone School District Superintendent Brian Weible informed the board at this November’s work session/voting meeting how coordination effort discussions between the C-L and Clarion Area school districts have been progressing and what can be done next.
“What we are looking at is areas where we currently work together (with Clarion Area), such as special education, and we talked about how those classes were doing and what we could do with that,” Weible said. “We are in the initial planning stages of what we can do.”
Representatives from both districts see athletics as a starting point for coordination.
According to Weible, there were discussions about increasing the number of sports cooperatives between the districts.
“We talked about what we could do and what we could be hosting here, and our ideas were for co-oping spring sports,” he said. “What we are looking at is small schools not having enough numbers for a sport each year. You might have enough this year, but two years from now there might be an issue.”
Weible said representatives discussed what would be the benefit in co-oping track and field, baseball and softball as early as spring 2023.
A benefit of having C-L host spring sports is the district has a track as well as a baseball and softball field, whereas Clarion Area does not have a track and holds its home baseball and softball contests at Clarion County Park and Weaver Park, respectively.
Clarion Area joined with North Clarion in both a boys and girls track and field co-op in 2021.
Weible believes there should be more discussions on the issue between representatives of the respective districts, including administration, staff and board members.
C-L High School Principal Rob Sintobin believes the co-ops will give students opportunities they might not have otherwise had.
“No one in this county is immune to the population decline, and it is up to us to seriously consider more co-ops and more coordination in order to provide these students more opportunities,” he said. “I hate to see the reduction (in opportunities) and I think Clarion feels the same way. It seems like the solution to these problems is to form co-ops to provide opportunities for these kids.
“It only makes sense to start where we have seen success already, and that is with athletics.”
Weible, in response to C-L Board President Nathaniel Parker’s question as to financial benefit via additional sports co-opps, said, there would be benefit in working with Clarion Area. “What we are looking at in the initial discussions we have had, there would be no exchange of money between the districts.”
Weible said in initial discussion, Clarion Area would host boys and girls soccer, football, wrestling, marching band and cheerleading; C-L would host cross country, baseball, softball, and boys and girls track and field. Under the arrangement, there would be no costs to either district and the host school would absorb the costs of its respective programs.
“I think examining (adding co-ops) is a wise move and it gives our students more opportunities,” C-L board member Bryan Huwar said. “If you look at our football program, I know we solidified the junior high and varsity programs at the same time and we had some junior varsity success, too. I think that is something we can look at for baseball.
“Maybe we will have some kids who will not start in varsity, but we could start a junior high program and a junior varsity program. I think the trend in this area is going to be to get together with other schools and do that kind of stuff. And anything we can do that broadens horizons and pulls the community together is a great thing.”
Board member Dave Louder, who is a varsity assistant coach for the Clarion/C-L football co-op, concurred.
“The big thing I have seen is the numbers in baseball have been cut down. During the summer, we see these kids from Clarion and C-L playing baseball in Little League, Junior League and minor league together,” he said.
“What I have seen as a parent and a bystander at baseball games is the influx of freshmen and sophomores starting on the varsity team; then seeing the number of freshmen and sophomores who are sitting on the bench and/or quit. The opportunities for a junior varsity team are out there.”
Louder said he envisions “nothing but good” resulting from additional co-ops, “and I understand there are some issues with fields and coaches right now, and I think this would really dissolve these problems.”
Weible said C-L Athletic Director Brad Frazier’s concern regarding coordination of busing for all the co-ops is being looked at.
The districts would need to get the cooperative agreements approved by the District 9 committee and the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association before they can begin play.
The Clarion Area and C-L districts also are in discussion to coordinate school opening and closing times so the districts can share transportation for students to Clarion County Career Center. Weible said there have been preliminary discussions with Career Center Director Traci Wildeson about changing the schedule so that Clarion Area and C-L students would have afternoon classes at the Career Center.
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