Students at Neosho Christian School could soon be able to join Neosho R-5 athletic teams.
Lawrence Sanders, superintendent of Neosho Christian School, presented the idea of a cooperative sponsorship between the two schools to the Neosho R-5 Board of Education in a work session Thursday evening.
“We at the Christian School, we’re small, but we’re trying to afford everyone there every opportunity that we can,” Sanders said. “We feel like we’ve got a good academic program down there but there’s just a lot of things, being that size, that we have trouble doing. Athletics is certainly one of them.”
Sanders said he had already applied for the Neosho Christian School’s membership in the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA).
He said representatives from MSHSAA have indicated that the membership should go through soon, and that the Christian School would be in Class 1, among the smallest schools.
The Neosho Christian School’s high school enrollment is currently at 20 students, Sanders said.
Corey Roy, Neosho R-5 athletic director, said to form a cooperative sponsorship, the two school boards would have to approve it and then the schools would file jointly with MSHSAA for approval.
However, MSHSAA deadlines require that applications be received by Dec. 1 of the previous school year for participation in sports such as basketball and football, while May 1 of the previous school year is the deadline for other athletic programs.
Meanwhile, Roy said when two schools join in a cooperative sponsorship, their two classes combined cannot be larger than six. With Neosho in Class 5, and Neosho Christian School set to be in Class 1, the two would be eligible in that requirement.
Sanders said he did not expect very many students to get involved in the Neosho school district’s athletic programs, at least not at first, but he wants the opportunity to be there for those who are interested.
“Right now I only see two or three kids, and that’s girls,” Sanders said. “I think down the road I’ve got one young man that might want to do track in the next year or two and I’ve got some kids coming up in the lower grades that I think will want to when they get there.”
Darren Cook, Neosho High School principal, said he does not have a problem with the Neosho Christian School students joining the Wildcats’ athletic teams.
Both he and school board president Brett Day expressed support for the idea, though both worried about potential parent concerns.
“I think it’s not going to hurt our program,” Cook said. “One thing you always worry about is parent issues and a parent saying ‘well my child goes to school at the public school but this Christian School kid comes on and takes their spot.’ They pay the taxes the same way you do, the difference is they’ve chosen an alternative education opportunity for their child.”
Sanders said while the Neosho Christian School will likely never be big enough for a football or softball team, they are beginning fundraising to build a gymnasium, in hopes of serving their own small basketball and volleyball teams.
“We managed to put together a girls basketball team last year and volleyball, we played in a Christian league in the Joplin area, but we’d really like to be able to allow our students to participate in sports other than that if we could,” Sanders said.
He said the school would co-op with Neosho on the sports the Christian School could not offer.
Sanders said student athletes from his school would also be expected to follow the same guidelines, such as meeting academic and attendance requirements, as those student athletes in the Neosho schools.
“I think it’s a good opportunity for this community to bring people together,” Day said.
He said the board members could mull over the decision this weekend, before it comes to a vote at their Monday school board meeting.