By Crystal Burns
The Gibson County Special School District board hosted a Town Hall to discuss options for consolidating the junior high basketball programs on the north end of the district Sunday, Jan. 10 at Gibson County High School.
The board has discussed consolidation in years past and most recently at the district’s December meeting. Board chairman Tom Lannom asked for a Town Hall to be held before holding a vote on consolidation.
The current proposal is to combine Dyer, Rutherford, Spring Hill and Yorkville into four teams – fifth/sixth grade girls, fifth/sixth grade boys, seventh/eighth grade girls, and seventh/eighth grade boys. Spring Hill and Yorkville already play together as the Junior Pioneers.
Director of Schools Eddie Pruett explained that some parents are worried that their children’s schools won’t have enough players to field separate varsity teams if the numbers continue to decline. He said with current numbers, the Rutherford and Junior Pioneers girls’ programs and Dyer boys’ team look to be in jeopardy.
An engaged crowd of more than two dozen parents, coaches, and players attended, asking some easy-to-answer questions as well as many with no answers.
One of the most easily answered questions dealt with transportation. Pruett said should the board vote to consolidate the programs, the district would provide transportation for all players from their home school to the school hosting practice. He said Gibson County High School would probably be the “central hub” for drop-off after away games, and home games would likely be played there.
A parent also asked if the consolidated teams would have any trouble finding opponents, with Pruett and Lannom reassuring her that there are plenty of middle school teams in the area that would schedule games with Gibson County schools.
The board said there would be options for cheerleaders. The schools could consolidate or use the model of the junior high football team, which allows each school to have its own cheerleading squad with schools assigned to cheer at different games.
A much harder question to answer was why the decline in children interested in playing basketball. One parent said it was self-inflicted because pee-wee and church leagues are no longer available to start children with the game at a young age. Rutherford girls’ coach Keri Lannom said she typically goes into the classrooms to recruit players and said she has had to “beg” for players to try out in recent years. As a mom of boys, she also commented that boys who play basketball and baseball often make a choice between the two because the seasons overlap.
Scott Ball, a school board member, said it’s an ever-changing world and there “is a lot more out there for these kids to do.”
Board members indicated their decisions would be based on what gives students the best opportunities to play. A vote will be held at the board’s Thursday, Jan. 14 meeting, which starts at 6:30 p.m. at Dyer School.