2013-03-21 / Sports

Filling in the gaps


Lisa Paine — Sports Editor Lisa Paine — Sports Editor School closings across our coverage area could mean for some more league shuffling, or at the very least, some good hard looking around by several schools.

Flint Northern is slated to close at the end of the current school year, leaving a gap in the newlyrealigned Saginaw Valley League, and if the proposal to consolidate Lapeer West and Lapeer East into one high school passes for the 2014-15 calendar year, Lapeer could find itself looking for a new league. A vote by the Lapeer school board is slated for today. That could put close to 1,600 kids into one Lapeer high school.

Not since 1975 when the district split into two high schools, has Lapeer had just one high school. The two schools’ combined enrollment today totals more than 2,200 and that would make a single Lapeer high school the largest in the Flint Metro League. Swartz Creek is the second largest right now with 1,223 students according to this year’s enrollment numbers listed at www.flintmetroleague.org. Fenton boasts 1,203 students, Holly 1,172, Brandon 1,170, Lapeer East 1,144, Lapeer West 1,101, Kearsley 1,077, Clio 945 and Linden 923. If you add the East and West numbers currently, that puts 2,245, however, part of the current proposal aims to put all ninth graders into the middle schools, putting the new proposed student population around 1,600, allowing for a number of students leaving the district altogether based on Schools of Choice and other reasons. Let’s just say for the sake of this column that it is close to the 1,600 kids projected.

That still makes Lapeer the top dog as far as enrollment numbers and from an athletic standpoint, with now just one football team, soccer team and on down the line, stronger competition across the board. That may not sit well with the league or its member schools. While it’s far too early to make any presumptions, the Metro League and its member schools will likely be doing a lot of talking over the coming months, as they crunch the numbers.

So, where would Lapeer go as far as a new league? Some speculate that the opening in the Saginaw Valley would be a good choice, while others say following

Oxford to one of the Oakland Activities Associations makes more sense. Yet another possibility being bantered about in the early stages is a brand new league altogether, that could, and let’s stress could, include Flushing and Grand Blanc, both schools who have lengthy travel in their current leagues. Many will remember that Grand Blanc chose to join the Kensington Lakes

Activities Association when the Big Nine dwindled down to five, then four. The Bobcats travel to Pinckney, Milford, Walled Lake, Waterford and Hartland among others. Those bus trips make for long nights for studentathletes, parents, coaches and administrators, and fans. It’s also something Davison, Flushing, Flint Powers and Carman-Ainsworth have experienced this season in the Valley taking on Midland, Saginaw and the other schools in the North division.

The Genesee Area Conferences are likely not an option, as the Red and Blue have realigned numerous times over the past two years when Dryden, Morrice, Perry and others joined their ranks. Perry is slated to leave the league again next year, but the mostly Class B schools likely would not entertain the thought of a school as large as the new-proposed Lapeer High to join either division.

Change is hard and it will be difficult for many. However, as Lapeer Supt. Matt Wandrie has pointed out, neither school can afford to keep going in the direction it has, with more than a dozen sports at varying levels unable to field teams. That’s just crazy with 2,200 in the district. But, West boys could not field a tennis team in the fall, several basketball programs at both schools have not had a freshmen team in several years and the East softball program and West track programs continue to run with less than minimum numbers. That’s not good for anyone, especially the athletes put into starting varsity roles way before they are ready.

No one should panic, because there will be numerous discussions in many leagues over the coming months, as options become clearer. It’s certainly food for thought, though. lpaine@mihomepaper.com

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