Skip to main content

NOTICE: The Charter Vision project is dormant as of January 2008. This website is provided for archival purposes only.

Playing as a Team

Nell (Grade 11 / Northfield School of Arts and Technology) Originally published November 2003
Editors’ note: The Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) recently approved a cooperative agreement between ARTech (Northfield) and Northfield High School, an arrangement that allows ARTech students to participate in the NHS athletic program. A great many charter schools in Minnesota are struggling to forge similar agreements with their local districts. In this piece, Nell, an 11th grade student at ARTech, addresses this complex issue and gives her perspective on the process by which this cooperative agreement was established.

Additionally, a follow-up to this article was later published: Playing as a Team at the Legislature.

I have lived in Northfield all my life. I attended Northfield High School for two years, but the only thing I really loved there was sports. Soccer and softball gave me something to look forward to. Last summer, my teammates and I prepared for the approaching athletic season. Kids started training and attending captain practices in their free time. But I had even more on my mind: I was looking ARTech, a new charter school opening in my town. Could I attend ARTech and continue with my team at the high school?

At the time, I was told the two schools were working out a “cooperative agreement” through the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL). While the logistics of this agreement had not yet been sorted out, I went ahead and signed up for high school soccer, attended tryouts, was named a tri-captain of the JV team, and played in a few games. Just before the start of the school year, I decided to attend ARTech while participating in high school soccer after school. I was much happier being at ARTech then I had been at the high school. I was learning at one and having a great time with my team at the other.

Then, after one week at ARTech, my advisor told me that the high school activities office had called to say that I would not be able to participate in soccer for a while. I would have to miss Friday’s practice; after three weeks with the team, I suddenly couldn’t play. I had a game that Saturday — my birthday — and my brother was coming home for the weekend to watch me play. What’s more, there was a team rule that said if I missed Friday, I wouldn’t be able to play in the Saturday game I had looked forward to.

It turned out that more ARTech students wanted to participate in Northfield Middle and High School activities then anyone had expected. There was concern that we would be taking playing time from high school students. The MSHSL cooperative agreement ARTech had hoped for was on hold, and the high school activities director told my coach that I couldn’t practice or play in Saturday’s game until the problem was resolved. My coach and the head coach couldn’t do anything about it. In two short hours a giant pin had popped my balloon and the joy I had for my new school was gone.

After that, strategizing: we had school board meetings to attend, people to call, and MSHSL rules to figure out. In the meantime, the deadline passed for filing a cooperative agreement with the MSHSL. ARTech’s operations director, the Northfield School District Superintendent, and the high school activities director met, talked things out, and wrote a letter asking the MSHSL for an extension. Once that was approved, the school board added their support. Things were looking good, and I was able to reenroll at ARTech.

I finished the soccer season, getting moved up to varsity for sections. I looked forward to the spring softball season, and I was going to start lifting in the winter to stay in shape. All was well, until a few weeks later when the high school decided to reevaluate their policy of entering into cooperative agreements with charter schools altogether. Once again, my participation in high school sports was in jeopardy.

So, there were more strategy meetings. Along with other ARTech representatives, I attended a meeting of the Northfield High School Activities Advisory Council — made up of high school teachers, coaches, and parents — to plead our case. I was told by one of the Council members that I would be allowed to speak if I made my case in an “adult manner.” It was hard to prepare and deliver a statement without becoming too emotional.

At the meeting, we stated our side, answered some questions, and left. Afterwards, I wasn’t sure how well things had gone. It was obvious that there were some who did not favor ARTech students participating in high school sports. It didn’t seem to matter that I had lived here all my life, or that I had played on Northfield teams since I was old enough to participate. It was as if, because I attended ARTech, I was no longer a “Northfield kid.” Fortunately, the school board subsequently approved a policy that allows ARTech students to participate in Middle and high school sports for the next two years, when the policy will be reviewed again. This is a start, although there is more work to be done.

Both schools are wonderful and meet different needs for different students, but I worry that there will be constant struggle between them. If they could work together, great things could happen and the whole community would gain. But some people believe that ARTech is competing with the high school, and a major problem is a lack of communication.

People are starting to address this conflict and do something about it. I am just happy that I can play softball this spring, and that more people are working to establish good relations between these two schools.

Comments are closed.