Close Mission Valley to help SM South sports? Parents wonder; district says no

The SM South Raiders make an entrance during Homecoming.

A 2009 school district committee report has some local parents wondering whether part of the motivation to close Mission Valley and move Brookwood students into the SM South feeder pattern comes from a desire to preserve SM South’s 6A sports status.

The Middle School Configuration Committee report obtained by the Save Mission Valley group has a section listing the potential benefits and drawbacks of consolidating district middle schools. One of the many bullet points in that section reads, “Concern about size of high schools becoming 5A.”

The line in the committe report (click to enlarge)

Sports classification is determined by the Kansas State High School Activities Association based on enrollment. The schools with the 32 largest enrollments get 6A status. The next largest 32 schools are designated 5A.

In the KSHSA classifications for 2010-11 and 2011-12, which were released in September 2009, SM South had the fourth lowest enrollment of all 6A schools. Blue Valley West had the lowest enrollment in the classification with 1000 students. SM South had 1103.

But district administrators say that preserving SM South’s 6A status was not a contributing factor in superintendent Gene Johnson’s decision to bring the proposals to close Mission Valley and move Brookwood into the SM South area to the board.

“This was a document put together by an internal committee, and one of the things they did was brainstorm the benefits and potential concerns of a number of scenarios,” said associate superintendent for communication Leigh Anne Neal. “That was a potential concern item that the committee listed, but superintendent Johnson has said that the sports status of the schools was not an overriding factor or concern in his decision.”

That explanation doesn’t satisfy some parents who’ve been active in the campaign to keep Mission Valley open. Save Mission Valley committee member Meridith Bihuniak said she and a number of others are suspicious.

“We’ve heard them say that this is about academics, but it’s hard to look at the course offerings for both East and South and see how anybody could be deprived going to either school,” Bihuniak said. “It does make you wonder whether sports were a factor.”