PLATTSMOUTH – Plattsmouth Community Schools moved a step closer to leaving the Eastern Midlands Conference Monday night after a decision from Plattsmouth Board of Education members.
Board members voted 7-0 to explore leaving the EMC at the end of the 2019-20 school year. They voted to join Nebraska City, Ralston, Platteview and Wahoo in talks to potentially develop a new yet-to-be-named conference. Nebraska City and Plattsmouth are currently members of the EMC and Platteview and Wahoo are both in the Nebraska Capitol Conference. Ralston is currently in the River Cities Conference.
Board members Ken Winters, Tony Foster, Karen Parsons, Bob Fuller, Max Muller, Steve Barr and Shane Jensen approved the motion. Matt Glup and Cory Wehrbein both had prior commitments and were unable to attend the meeting.
Plattsmouth Superintendent Dr. Richard Hasty told board members he and Plattsmouth High School Principal Todd Halvorsen attended a recent meeting with officials from Platteview, Ralston, Wahoo and Nebraska City. The other schools had held two earlier meetings about the possibility of forming a new conference. Hasty said the other districts then asked Plattsmouth representatives to come to the third meeting to gauge their interest.
Hasty said Plattsmouth had not actively been seeking league possibilities outside the EMC prior to the third meeting. He said the district’s situation was different from fellow EMC member Nebraska City, which has expressed interest in leaving the conference for a long time.
“Nebraska City has wanted this for years,” Hasty said. “They’ve had patrons and even board members who have addressed this issue and said that they wanted out of the league. We haven’t had any of that. I haven’t had anyone come to us and say that we needed to get out of the EMC. That’s why I wasn’t jumping on going to the first two meetings.
“Before the third meeting I was asked to come to it and see what it was like, so Mr. Halvorsen and I went. I think it has a chance to be a great opportunity for our students across the board.”
Hasty said it was important for board members to realize that Monday night’s vote was not a formal declaration to leave the EMC. Plattsmouth officials will spend the next few months working with members of the potential new conference to develop a constitution and bylaws. If talks with them do not work out, Plattsmouth would be able to remain in the EMC.
“The next EMC Council meeting is scheduled for Sept. 4,” Hasty said. “If we decide to leave, then we would submit a letter to the other EMC members at that meeting. But, if the conversation (on the new conference) doesn’t turn out like we hope, then we don’t have to give that letter. The motion tonight simply authorizes us to pursue it.”
Plattsmouth is one of eight current members of the EMC. Bennington, Blair, Elkhorn, Gretna, Nebraska City, Norris, Plattsmouth and Waverly are in the league. Gretna will leave at the end of the current school year for the Metropolitan High School Activities Association due to skyrocketing enrollment. The EMC will have seven teams in the 2019-20 school year before Elkhorn North joins the league in 2020-21.
Plattsmouth has been associated with the EMC since 1980. The district was one of the founding members of the conference. The Blue Devils have worked with other EMC schools on a wide variety of extracurricular and academic activities since then.
The EMC has been recognized as one of the top conferences in the state in academics, fine arts, athletics and other activities. League schools have earned multiple state championships and have produced many Academic All-State students.
Halvorsen told board members he felt Plattsmouth would be more competitive in a new conference. The Nebraska School Activities Association places districts in classifications based on the total enrollment of either girls or boys in grades 9-11. The 2018-19 enrollment numbers for Plattsmouth are 196 girls and 228 boys for a total of 424.
Plattsmouth is currently the second-smallest school in the EMC. Bennington (214 girls, 237 boys), Blair (249 girls, 280 boys), Elkhorn (441 girls, 471 boys), Gretna (485 girls, 487 boys), Norris (250 girls, 267 boys) and Waverly (226 girls, 237 boys) have larger enrollments. Nebraska City (161 girls, 156 boys) has a smaller enrollment.
Halvorsen said he was also concerned that other EMC schools could someday ask Plattsmouth to step out of the league if there was a large enrollment gap between them and PHS.
“We’re not going to be a 700-person high school,” Halvorsen said. “I don’t want us to be in a spot where four years from now others are asking us to leave the conference because they don’t want to compete against us.”
Hasty said the district would be able to work with members of the potential new conference to draft bylaws that would cover all educational activities. He felt that would help Plattsmouth in a variety of ways.
“I think the timing for us is beneficial for all of the activities in grades 7-12,” Hasty said. “I really believe that if you approve it tonight we’ll be helping lead the conversation on how this new conference is structured.”
Hasty told board members he felt other schools were taking a close look at how Plattsmouth approached the situation. He did not name those schools, but reports in publications such as the Beatrice Daily Sun have linked both Beatrice and Ashland-Greenwood as potential members of the new conference. Beatrice school board members learned about those possibilities at their meeting last month.
“I don’t want to sound like we’re putting ourselves on a pedestal, but I truly think that others are waiting to see what we’re going to end up doing here,” Hasty said. “There is interest in this out there.”
If the new conference is created, those districts would begin operating under one league umbrella in the 2020-21 academic year. Schools have already finalized the large majority of their schedules in their current conferences for the 2019-20 year. Activities directors often create schedules one year in advance to ensure times, dates, venues and other logistical needs are correct.