The Exeter-Milligan school board held a lengthy discussion on the plan to coop sports with Friend for this fall at their regularly scheduled monthly board meeting that was held by Zoom on April 8.
School board Chairman Adam Erdkamp explained that the Exeter-Milligan area committee met with both the respective Friend and Fillmore Central. Erdkamp read the notes from both meetings and noted they would be posted on the districts website.
At the Friend meeting on March 15th each committee gave an overview of their regular meeting and shared some of the public comments that were received at those meetings. Erdkamp noted that “overall the comments and questions were similar.”
The Exeter-Milligan contingent shared with Friend that they would be having a similar conversation with Fillmore Central. “We wanted to consider all of the options available for our kids. It’s important to know what Fillmore Central could bring to the table.”
The Friend and Exeter-Milligan committees hashed out a preliminary look at what consolidation would look like:
-Preschool in Friend and in Exeter
-K-5 school in Exeter
-Jr High and High school in Friend
-Staff would be reduced by offering early buyouts or attrition.
-Exeter-Milligan transportation would be favorable to doing all of the transportation.
-Milligan site would not be used but an inter-local agreement would be made with the village. The district would pay for updates but the village would run the facility.
Sports would be split between all three locations. All football would be played in Milligan with practices in Exeter and Friend. All volleyball would be in Exeter with high school practice in Exeter and junior high in Friend. The softball program would continue to coop with Fillmore Central.
Basketball games would be held in Friend with high school practices in Friend and junior high practices in Exeter and Friend. Wrestling would all be in Friend along with high school track. Junior high track would be determined by coaches and administration.
Erdkamp also noted that both committees concurred that their activity handbooks would have to be altered and the booster clubs at both schools would have to coop as well.
The next step in the process, according to Erdkamp, was to return to the respective boards and report their conversation. At that point if the sports coop was to proceed for this fall a special meeting would have to be held by the end of April so boards could vote and meet the looming conference deadline.
Erdkamp asked the board members who were not a part of the area committee if they had any questions. Tim Pribyl asked the administrators if it was common to move the sixth grade in with the junior high. Kroll responded that it could go either way but, “in general sixth grade curriculum flows well with seventh and eighth.”
Erdkamp then read the notes of the meeting with Fillmore Central which was held on March 23 in Exeter with just the committee members.
Fillmore Central representatives shared that they would be willing to have a K-4 site in Exeter but could not guarantee it for more than four or five years. There would not be any other school site or sports played at either site of the current Exeter-Milligan district. There would be no change in identity for Fillmore Central. They were also certain that they would not be able to retain all of the current staff.
Another key point of the meeting revealed that Fillmore Central could not guarantee budget funds to maintain either Exeter or Milligan sites if they were not used.
Exeter-Milligan committee members felt like there were a few positives in a potential merger. They felt that “our students would gain increased academic and athletic and extracurricular opportunities and access to programs we aren’t able to provide our students.”
Board member Eric Milton added, “We had good discussion about where they are and the size of district they are. They perceive a lot of liability when taking the kids out of their Geneva or Fairmont facility. They were candid with us.”
Erdkamp then read emails he had received from six community members all of which urged the board to slow down the process and not vote on any issues until the current covid 19 pandemic is over and gathering restrictions are removed.
Several of the board members commented positively on the email from sophomore class member Wesley Ronne who encouraged the board to “Send out a google form to all of the students. I feel it would be a systemized way to give feedback and would be constructive.”
Several board members were surprised that community members expected the board to vote on the sports coop during the meeting.
Board member Dan Kalhoff voiced his thoughts, “I was surprised that all of the emails thought that this would be a vote tonight. I don’t think we even know what is going to happen this fall yet. To think that we are going to get this done before the fall season starts – I think we are a little ahead of ourselves.”
Erdkamp added, “I agree with you Dan. These meetings were a little more than a month ago. I don’t think anyone has the intention to shove something through. If we were going to try to do a sports cooperative there was a time line that had to be met. Because of things that are going on I don’t think that is going to happen."
Kroll responded to the request from Ronne to survey the students. “We do plan to survey the kids. We were waiting to see what happened with this school board meeting.”
Erdkamp encouraged the administration to “get the pulse of the student population.”
Next Erdkamp read letters from most of the Exeter-Milligan coaches who all supported the coop of athletics with Friend for a variety of reasons with most citing the benefit of additional players at practices which could lead to greater success on the playing field.
“We may have to put on the brakes for a vote for a couple of reasons. We weren’t planning to vote tonight, we would have had additional public meetings but this (the Covid 19) pushes the whole timetable back,” added Erdkamp.
Sheffield made it very clear that the timeline “has been my timeline, not the boards timeline. This has been a very abnormal time with the Covid 19 transpiring. Just wanted to go on record that this has been my timeline.”
Kroll clarified that at the coaches meeting, “there was no discussion of wins and losses. The biggest conversation was about having some JV games and competition.”
When the board began discussing their next step in the process of a sports coop with Friend, Kalhoff spoke up summing up the consensus of the board, “I think we are trying to get it done too quick for it to happen this year. . . it’s not going to work out this year. Maybe next year we can have more discussions with the public in an open meeting. . .I think Friend would understand, they are in the same boat. I think it would have been too fast even without covid 19.”