High school football and school consolidation.
While one of these things evokes the thought of a cool autumn evening and community pride, the other often causes bitterness and divides communities.
But the two topics have been thrust together as a result of the Kansas Association of School Boards looking at possible roadblocks for school officials considering consolidation and working with the Kansas State High School Activities Assn.
The reason: School classifications and rules for playoffs in high school football are different than for any other sport at the high school level in Kansas, said Jim Edwards, governmental relations specialist for KASB. While a school's classification for other sports is determined annually based on enrollment, the classification in football is done every other year.
So if a district decided to consolidate two high schools in the first year of the two-year playoff schedule, the new school would be able to play its regular schedule but not to participate in playoffs.
"There are enough schools that are at least talking about consolidation that the issue comes up and people say 'well, you know, maybe we should wait a year,'" Edwards said.
He said he couldn't name districts considering consolidation.
Gary Musselman, executive director of the KSHSAA, said the rules for football playoffs had been in the organization's handbook since the 1980s. But the issue is a concern for the organization, he said, and the executive board has agreed to consider the matter at its next meeting in April.
Before then, Musselman said the activities association would have meetings around the state to make sure school activity directors understand the issue.
The rationale behind the rule is to protect schools that had no hand in changing their enrollment numbers, he said. The association bases classification on enrollment figures for students in 10th, 11th and 12th grades, he said. For football, the group takes the enrollment numbers for ninth, 10th and 11th grades for the classification.
Musselman said he didn't know how big a role the football rule plays in consolidations. He's only heard of it coming up in two cases. One involved the Waconda school district, which is in north-central Kansas. The second involved the Kaw Valley school district, which straddles Shawnee, Jackson and Pottawatomie counties.
In the Kaw Valley district, the school board approved consolidating two high schools in the district, St. Marys and Rossville. The consolidation would have left St. Marys without a high school.
But before the consolidation could happen, most of the board members were voted out of office and the newly installed board voted down the consolidation.
"Sports was a part of the decision not to consolidate," said David Brunin, a Kaw Valley school board member who lives in St. Marys.
Brunin made the motion about two years ago against consolidating the high schools. "There's more chances for students to play with two high schools and our school wouldn't have been able to be in the playoffs," he said.
Athletics was a small part in the decision not to consolidate, Brunin said. What it came down to, though, was that as soon as a town loses schools, they lose their appeal.
"We didn't want that," he said.