Thursday, May 7, 2009

Is football a school saviour?

An interesting development in the campaign to keep Niagara District Secondary School in Niagara-on-the-Lake open. The District School Board of Niagara voted last year to give the school two academic years to boost its student population or face closure. The community efforts to increase enrolment in the first of those two years stalled, with enrolment remaining stable (or dropping).
Now the school's football-playing alumni are a flutter over the principal's refusal to reinstate a football team at the school for the fall of 2009.
The alumni claim the team alone would bring students back to the school in sufficient numbers to meet the 350-student goal set by trustees last year. This of course, assumes there are a critical mass of boys choosing to attend school in St. Catharines or Niagara Falls solely because of a football team.
The principal, presumably with support from his supervisors, says bringing in a football team at NDSS will only kill other fall boys' sports such as volleyball. It's a realization the talent pool at a small school is just that-- small. Likely the only option would be for the school to have a varsity team with students from all grades instead of separate junior and senior football teams since each team needs 20-30 players to be viable. There are schools with 900 to 1,000 students who can pack a varsity team with 45 players but can't get enough to come out for a junior/senior combo. Could NDSS even establish a viable varsity team?
Is this a desperate attempt on the community's part?
If anything, the biggest thing harming NDSS (built for 1,000 with a current population between of approximately over 200) is the availability of busing for students wanting to access programs at other board schools. Kill the bus, and see if the students still vote with their feet to attend schools outside their own town. If they do, then what more could possibly be done to encourage attendance at NDSS?