Posted 10/27/15 (Tue)
By Neal A. Shipman
The Watford City Wolves will continue to roam the ranks of Class B sports for at least the next two years following action by the McKenzie County Public School District No. 1 to dissolve its co-op sports agreements with Alexander High School and the Johnson Corners Christian Academy.
The school board officially took action to dissolve the two co-op agreements at a special meeting on Oct. 19, based on declining enrollment numbers at the high school.
According to the North Dakota High School Activities Association guidelines, any high school with more than 325 students must compete at the Class A level in sports. While Watford City High School’s enrollment did not exceed that threshold, the two co-op agreements pushed the school’s student count in grades 9 through 12 above 325 students.
“When we began the two-year transition to Class A sports, we believed that our high school numbers would be above the 325-student threshold,” states Steve Holen, district superintendent. “At which point, whether or not we had co-op agreements would have been a moot point.”
But, according to Holen, the slowdown in the state’s oil patch resulted in a slower growth in high school students than the district had expected.
“As of Sept. 10, Watford City High School had an enrollment of 322 students in grades 9 through 12,” stated Holen. “With the two co-ops, our numbers would have been above the 325 threshold and we would have been forced to compete at the Class A level next fall.”
According to Holen, the district took its case to remain at the Class B level to the North Dakota High School Activities Association (NDHSAA). And on Thursday, Oct. 21, the NDHSAA board accepted the school district’s request to stay at the Class B level until its high school enrollment is above the 325 threshold for two consecutive years.
With the dissolution of the two co-ops, students at Alexander High and Johnson Corners Christian Academy will no longer be able to participate in Watford City High School’s volleyball, basketball, track, golf or baseball programs.
For Leslie Bieber, Alexander School District No. 2 superintendent, the dissolution of the co-op program with Watford City High School will have minimal impact on their students.
With Alexander’s student enrollment increasing, the district moved forward to add volleyball, football and basketball sporting programs for its high school students.
“I would like to thank you (Watford City High School) for allowing us to participate in your football program for the past 27 years, as well as on your other sports teams for the past dozen years,” stated Bieber. “You’ve allowed us to bond with you.”
However, Bieber did request that Watford City consider allowing Alexander students to compete on Watford City High School’s softball and wrestling programs.
“Cross country, wrestling and softball are exempt from co-op sports agreements,” stated Bieber. “We hope to have our own wrestling program, but we won’t be able to offer softball,” stated Bieber.
According to Holen, the decision to remain at the Class B level in sports was the right choice to make at the time.
“Our high school enrollment numbers just weren’t there,” stated Holen. “It wouldn’t have been good to move to Class A and then move back down to Class B if our high school numbers failed to get above the 325-student threshold. We will use the next two years to help us prepare for the move to Class A.”