R-1 school board discusses accepting VIPS students on middle school athletic teams

By Laura Schiermeier, Staff Writer
Posted 6/8/22

VIENNA — The Maries R-1 School Board probably will vote during its next school board meeting in June about whether or not it will approve for middle school-age students at Visitation …

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R-1 school board discusses accepting VIPS students on middle school athletic teams

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VIENNA — The Maries R-1 School Board probably will vote during its next school board meeting in June about whether or not it will approve for middle school-age students at Visitation Inter-Parish School (VIPS) to compete with their public school counterparts on sports teams beginning in the 2022-2023 school year.

At the May R-1 School Board meeting, visitors Deacon Michael Brooks and VIPS parents, Courtney Jeremy and Beth Wulff were present to answer any questions the school board members have about the issue. 

Jeremy said VIPS participating on teams with R-1 students is made possible with VIPS becoming a MSHSAA affiliate. She said there are two middle school-age students interested in playing sports with R-1 students.

R-1 Board President Vicki Bade said the school board has no objection to the proposal. If they were hesitant, it is because they were waiting for the official request, and at this time have received it. Bade said Deacon Brooks gave a good presentation at a previous board meeting. They asked the school administration to go through the pros and cons and the costs. It was tabled until the official request was received and the board will look at that now. She said if the board members get the answers they need, they will vote on it within the next one to two months. The official request arrived the day before. 

Jeremy said there is no timeline with it and they are fine with June. Bade said the board won’t drag its feet because of open gym this summer and other considerations. They have to make sure their questions are answered. “We will do it in a timely way,” she said. 

Board member Kacie James noted 6th grade sports is on the May meeting’s agenda and asked if there are any VIPS 6th graders interested in playing. Jeremy said one boy and one girl for a total of four VIPS students interested in participating in sports at Maries R-1 during the next school year. 

Board Vice President Penny Schoene asked if there is an opportunity now for VIPS to participate in R-1 sports. Superintendent Teresa Messersmith said yes, if the students attend two classes each day at Maries R-1. Jeremy said but if they are an affiliate of MSHSAA, they don’t have to take the classes because they will be part of a co-op. Schoene said the issue “is a bit contentious.” As a board, they need to advocate for students, be a team player in the community, look at the size of the teams now and find out what the impact will be if there are more students. 

High School Principal Ian Murray said quite a few boys signed up from the 6th grade and there are a lot of first time players. Most of the time they wait until middle school to start playing and it is harder to compete at a higher level. Jeremy said the town and the team will benefit from all of the kids playing together, and it will help Vienna be more competitive. 

Murray said 19 students, 7th and 8th graders, signed up and they are talking about adding the 6th graders, too. He said they need 12 to 14 for the A and B games. Bade said the numbers are different every year. She thinks for the board, the issue is how they handle these kids and what to expect if they decide to expand the program. 

Jeremy said the co-op is a yearly agreement and it can be ended.  Schoene said they will need to set up policy for the first year. Bade said they will have to give it time to work out, a minimum of three years. She said the decision is not based on the number of kids but on “our expectations” of what and how the coaches deal with it. In order to expand to accommodate more kids, the school needs to be able to accommodate them. 

Brooks suggested trying it for a year. He thinks their fears will be alleviated and that everybody will be happy, and what they are concerned about won’t happen. 

Schoene said if their kids don’t get enough playing time, parents will complain. She said coaches want to win and the school district will have parents who are concerned and how they handle this is key. It needs to be addressed upfront and if they don’t they will go back and forth about why a kid didn’t get to play. Jeremy said she knows the adults may not like it and some parents may complain, and asked what is best for the kids and for team. 

Messersmith asked if R-1 students can compete on archery teams with VIPS students. Maries R-1 does not have an archery program. Wulff said VIPS students play with students from Holy Family on a team. Wulff said when she was at VIPS she wanted to play “so bad” and she’s pleased to see the two schools cooperating on this and to be so close to it finally happening. She said she would like to see her kids not be behind athletically. 

Jeremy said right now she is sending her kids to catholic school and they will be going to public school as well in the future. “That school is a tradition for me,” saying her grandmother attended VIPS. “I want to keep the tradition, but I have no problem sending my kids here.” 

Brooks suggested as they move forward with the coaches, let them know up front what the criteria is about who plays. Is it whoever works hard and the coaches choose who will play the most?

Bade said if they have 30 kids they can develop some scrimmage games for the kids to get court time. She said they are responsible for setting expectations for the students so they know what these are if Maries R-1 accepts the VIPS students. They are prepared to vote on this soon as they’ve had some questions answered when Brooks was there the last time. Insurance was a big question but it’s all good through the co-op. 

Later in the meeting, when the board took up an item further down on the agenda, 6th grade sports, Bade made a motion to include R-1 6th graders who want to play on middle school sports teams, without restrictions. James gave the second and the board members approved it. About the VIPS students participating with R-1 middle schoolers on sports teams, Bade said they will go through the co-op information and move it to an action item in June. 

Messersmith said there are pros and cons they talked about. The pros are the students from both schools will play together in high school. It will give the school a chance to get to know these students and vice versa. And, it will help the students develop athletic skills. 

The cons are possible large number of students in the activities, parent issues as some may not be satisfied with the choice they make.

Messersmith said they’ve already worked through some specific issues with MSHSAA such as transportation costs. If it was 30 kids they might consider sharing costs, but not for three kids, which would be a minimal charge or no charge. With referees and trip fees, the school would pay for these whether the VIPS students came or not. She said they aren’t sure they can charge the VIPS students but if they did it would be minimal or no charge at all. 

Messersmith said her recommendation is that it is “Something we should do. They will be our kids in a couple of years.” It supports the community and people should respect the school’s decision and should not fight against it. There may be issues to work out, but she thinks they should try it and see how it works. It can be evaluated later. 

Bade said if the school has concerns to let the board know. She asked if other schools that use the co-op charged for each catholic school kid who participates with the public school sports program. She asked them to contact Rolla and Cuba as both have sports co-ops with catholic schools. 

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