From the Eastern Iowa Hawkeye to the Cedar Valley to the River Valley, the Mid-Prairie school district has been in the middle of three conference realignments in the last seven years, all of which have involved circumstances beyond their control. This spring Mid-Prairie was presented a proposal for another move, this time to the Southeast Conference, along with Burlington and Ottumwa, to join Washington, Mt. Pleasant. Ft. Madison, Keokuk and Fairfield. This week following feed back from coaches, teachers, parents and the community, Mid-Prairie has decided to decline that invitation.
Mid-Prairie Athletic Director Steve Hollan says that they attended a meeting in mid March to discuss the current conference they are part of and what Mid-Prairie would offer as a new member of the Southeast conference in both athletics and fine arts. Following that meeting Mid-Prairie administration received a formal invitation to join the Southeast Conference. After receipt of the invitation Hollan says Mid-Prairie administration wanted to solicit the opinions of those within the district. Hollan shares the feedback he got from the community.
“We wanted to visit with parents, coaches and student athletes and get kind of a good feel of how people felt about this process and the majority of them felt that this would not be a good idea for Mid-Prairie just simply because if we look at the BEDS numbers, which is grades nine, 10 and 11, of the schools, Mid-Prairie is dramatically much lower in enrollment student wise compared to the current schools in the Southeast conference and really a big discrepancy in BEDS numbers between Burlington, Ottumwa and Mid-Prairie,” Hollan said.
One of the main topics of conversation regarding Mid-Prairie’s current location in the River Valley Conference has been travel times for student athletes. Hollan spoke about the comparison between the current conference affiliation and the geography of the Southeast Conference.
“We’re not really happy with all of the travel that we have, it has caused a little rift in our community. They just don’t like to have to travel up to Cascade, or Northeast Goose Lake or Bellevue, and then we started looking at distance traveled if we were to join the Southeast Conference. For student athletes traveling from the High School, it would probably be a little bit less in travel time, but then we started communication with our parents, and many of our parents work up in the Iowa City, Coralville and North Liberty area and for them to drive from work to schools in the Southeast Conference, it would be a much greater drive,” Hollan said. “It wasn’t necessarily going to be a big change, or a positive change to join the Southeast Conference as far as travel goes.”
Middle school athletics would also be affected. Currently Mid-Prairie plays only the teams in the River Valley Conference south division for middle school sports, making their longest trip an hour and fifteen minutes to Durant. In the Southeast Conference Mid-Prairie would have to play all of the members at the middle school level as well, giving them trips to Keokuk, Ft. Madison and potentially Burlington and Ottumwa. Hollan has not been informed as to whether or not Burlington and Ottumwa accepted their invitations to join the Southeast Conference. Hollan says that they are not actively searching for new conference possibilities but if Mid-Prairie would be approached as they were by the Southeast Conference they would review the idea.