Maple Grove Talks Possible Renewal Of Football Merger

Maple Grove is again considering merging its football program for the 2014 season.

The Bemus Point Central School District held a parent meeting Thursday to discuss the upcoming football season, specifically options regarding the possibilities of mergers with Chautauqua Lake and/or Cassadaga Valley.

Superintendent Michael Mansfield opened the meeting by explaining that safety, opportunities for Bemus Point students and effects on partnering schools were all considerations in the merger discussions.

“There is no decision to be made tonight, this is about collecting information,” he said.

“Feedback is welcomed and encouraged-that’s why we are having meetings like tonight,” said Lisa Allenson, board of education president.

According to Mansfield, sports teams looking for merger partners were given an extension – schools can declare into February – due to the volume of schools in need of partners to continue their programs.

The options tabled for consideration by the Bemus Point Board of Education included having a stand-alone Maple Grove program, merging Maple Grove with Chautauqua Lake, merging Maple Grove with Cassadaga Valley and merging all three schools’ football programs.

Although Maple Grove is currently a Class D school, any mergers on the table for Maple Grove would bring them up to Class C.

Regarding safety, Mansfield promoted separating practice fields for the varsity and JV teams, ensuring that JV players would not be matched up with varsity players. As well, he noted that not pushing players past their emotional or physical preparedness was a necessity. However, Mansfield admitted that for students willing to put in the time and effort the football team would require, he wanted to be sure there would be a level of competition challenging enough to grow players.

According to a poll referenced at the meeting, a rough estimate of 31 to 41 students grades 9 through 12 were considering playing football in the coming year for Maple Grove. Based on the projections many parents in attendance expressed concern in the ability of Maple Grove to field stand-alone varsity and JV football teams.

The option of a stand-alone Maple Grove team also poses the problem of damaging the school’s relationship with Chautauqua Lake, according to Mansfield. Since Section 6 needs to approve mergers every year, if Maple Grove does not continue a partnership with Chautauqua Lake, it is likely that Chautauqua Lake would form a new partnership.

“It’s the Wild West as far as these mergers go,” one attendee noted, adding that a continued partnership will be necessary to keep Bemus Point sports programs afloat in future years.

“We need to get on board, stick with it, and build something good. Chautauqua Lake wants (the merger) and we needed them for the varsity team more than they needed us,” one attendee added.

The board of education will meet at 5:30 p.m. on Monday for continued discussions about the football merger at the Maple Grove Junior-Senior High School. Public comment is encouraged and welcomed.