Mont Harmon Junior High's principal, Todd Lauritsen approached the Carbon School District at their May 11 meeting and requested that the school be allowed to look for competition with teams outside its normal Castle Valley Association (CVA) schedule next year.
The answer from the board on the issue was somewhat unclear, but the answer from the Castle Valley Association has apparently been crystal. If Mont Harmon decides to compete with schools outside the association, they can no longer be part of it.
That stand became the centerpiece of the discussion that evening, with various sides being heard. The board members as individuals also had some interesting things to say in the meeting, although they decided not to take any action, because they resolved it was basically a school decision.
The Castle Valley Athletic Association was set up over 20 years ago to allow the junior high schools in Carbon and Emery counties to have a regular league in which to compete in sports. The original league consisted of San Rafael Junior High in Ferron, Canyon View Junior High in Huntington, Mont Harmon Junior High in Price, Helper Junior High in Helper and East Carbon Junior High (which has been part of East Carbon High) in Sunnyside.
However with the closing of East Carbon High at the end of this school year, the league will be affected because of less games.
The association has also grown from being just an athletic conference to a league which competes in music, academic competitions and some other areas.
"The idea of adding competition with other schools outside the area on a regular basis came from a belief that it will benefit the students of our school," said Lauritsen as he began his presentation to the board. "We value the teams in the association, but we simply want to lengthen the season so we can have competition with teams from other places in the state. We fully intend to stay in the league and play those teams but we want to get a month or two more of competition from outside."
However, in conversations with the league, Lauritsen says that Mont Harmon has been told that they either stay within the rules of the league (meaning season length) or they should not be part of it.
According to those at the meetng part of the problem is that the league was originally set up to deal with very small junior high schools which had a limited amount of students. This meant conflicts between seasons when not enough students were available for competition. Therefore the seasons are set up differently in the CVA than they are in much of the rest of the state. For instance basketball season doesn't begin until January for the CVA teams because the small schools don't have enough kids to play both basketball and be in wrestling at the same time. Wrestling competition in the league therefore begins in October and finishes in December, when schools in the rest of the state are just beginning their programs, which extend into January and February.
Mont Harmon wrestling coach Brock Fausett also pointed out that the present schedule precludes the school from competing in the state championships.
"The state wrestling tournament for junior highs is in February and if we could start with the rest of the state and end with them we could compete in that," he said. "We just would like our kids to experience a different level of competition."
Acccording to Lauritsen the CVA schedule inhibits the school from competing with schools their own size in other areas of the state. Mont Harmon is by far the largest junior high in the area with a studentbody of around 700 students which will grow even bigger next year with the addition of dozens of individuals from the closed Sunnyside facility.
"The way I see it is that East Carbon High was closed so that students could have more opportunities at a larger school and we are just requesting the same for the students at our school," said Lauritsen. "Competition with other schools outside the CVA would add a new dimension, but we certainly don't want to downplay our competition in the CVA either. We just see it as an opportunity to make our players better."
Lauritsen said that the school has been contacted not only by Sanpete, Duchesne and Uintah county schools about competition, but also by some from the Wasatch front as well.
"I understand the schools with less students not wanting to expand the dates the CVA plays, but with 700 students we need more dates to play other schools outside the area," stated Lauritsen.
But some board members were not so sure about the issue and voiced their opinions about how they saw the situation.
"Does this mean you are saying you just don't want to abide by the rules of the league you are in?" asked board member Barry Deeter. "It just appears to me if you are going to belong to an association you can't pick and chose the rules you want to follow."
"We are here to say we have a concern about the association holding hard to their dates," said Lauritsen in answer to the question. "I know there is no easy answer to this."
Board president Grady McEvoy suggested that possibly schools of certain sizes should have some leeway on who they play and when.
However, the CVA also had representation at the meeting as Tom Montoya, the principal at Helper Junior High stood and addressed the board from the associations point of view.
"These issues have been under discussion for many years amongst the schools in the association," stated Montoya. "Each spring the schools meet to adjust the calendar and we work together on that. However there are several issues here that are important to those in the league and the individual schools as well."
Montoya listed a number of things including the cost of added competition farther away from the area and how that would affect budgets. He also cited the academic competions as well as the size of school issue as being a hard one to solve.All the other schools in the CVA have between 150 and 400 students.
"If all of the schools were the same size it would be easy to solve," he said. "But they aren't."
Lauritsen said he didn't see any reason the cost of the programs would increase as long as the school stays in the league. But the idea of staying or not staying in the league was one of the main questions at the meeting.
"I think Mont Harmon should definitely stay in the league, but on the other hand the CVA should work with the school on the dates as well," said board member Boyd Bell. "I can see the need to let Mont Harmon grow and not hold them to a plan that was put together 20 years ago. I think the league needs to change."
Board member Jim Leonard however felt the board should not make any kind of decision on the issue because he said he sees it as a school situation, not a district one.
"I think we as a board need to stay out of this," he stated.
Concerns arose, however, about activities besides athletics as well. Board member Debbie Blackburn said she was concerned about what would happen with academic and music competitions should the school decide to leave the league.
"I just wouldn't want to see us jeoprodize the quiz bowl," she stated.
After conferring with the board, McEvoy said that the board would not take a stand on the issue but urged the league and Mont Harmon to negotiate with each other to come up with a solution.
In a later development, during a Monday morning interview with Lauritsen by phone, the Sun Advocate learned that he has requested a meeting with the league on the issues involved, but that meeting has not been scheduled yet.