An agreement between the St. Johnsville and Oppenheim-Ephratah school districts will allow Oppenheim-Ephratah students to participate in the St. Johnsville soccer program this fall.
The boards of education of the two districts approved an agreement on Thursday that will allow Oppenheim-Ephratah students to participate in St. Johnsville boys’ and girls’ modified and varsity soccer at no cost to Oppenheim-Ephratah or its students.
Under the agreement, the St. Johnsville district will administer the program, and provide all staff, uniforms and facilities.
On Thursday night, the Oppenheim-Ephratah School District held a special board meeting in which board members and the public discussed the agreement.
Oppenhiem-Ephratah Board Member Joanne Capek-Young explained the sports combination agreement will be a shared service between St. Johnsville and Oppenhiem-Ephratah students.
“This is not a merger rather a combination agreement that allows our students to have the opportunity to play fall sports with no fiscal responsibility, other than some transportation costs,” Capek-Young said. “Our district has struggled to organize boys and girls modified and varsity soccer teams due to the low number of participants but, with this agreement in place our students will now be able to participate in the sport.”
Although the agreement gives Oppenhiem-Ephratah students a chance to play many parents felt as if the agreement would make their students feel unequal due to the name of the team and the home field. Rather than playing under the name of St. Johnsville it was suggested to play under the previous sports merger name of St. Joe’s.
Vicky DePiazza said St. Joe’s was previously created by both schools. “At that time there were no issues but, due to problems that affected the sports merger things have changed. If these kids are playing together as a team then they should be uniformed together as one.”
Former board member Jennifer Frasier said, “many of the kids will decide where to play based on where they represent, these kids should represent both districts and play on both fields.”
Capek-Young added, “yes, they are asking for control but, with the kids it doesn’t matter where they play and who they play for, we should learn from students and just get along.”
Other parents didn’t seem as enthused about the uniforms as others. Johanna Sweet said, “these kids truly need an outlet and it doesn’t matter to them what color they are wearing, or who they are playing for as long as they get to play.”
Oppenhiem-Ephratah Senior Ricky Jasewicz has played soccer for two years.
“I really enjoy the game and it’s my last chance to play here, I just want to play,” Jasewicz said.
Other parents commented that in the past Oppenhiem-Ephratah has merged in sports with both Dolgeville and St. Johnsville but, more camaraderie and friendship has been seen between Oppenhiem-Ephratah and St. Johnsville. Many parents agreed to put what’s more important for their students first.
Page 2 of 2 - “I understand there have been hard feelings between both district boards and but, we need to get past the hurt feelings and offer our students what’s right for them, a chance to play,” Capek-Young said.
An informational meeting for Oppenheim-Ephratah and St. Johnsville students interested in participating is slated for 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 8, in the St. Johnsville High School auditorium. Parents are welcome to attend.
“I’m extremely pleased with the agreement and will be happy to see our students playing together again,” Oppenheim-Ephratah Superintendent Dan M. Russom said in a news release.
St. Johnsville Superintendent Laura Campione said the two districts will evaluate the success of the program, and decide whether to continue the agreement into the winter and spring.
“We’re thrilled to welcome the Oppenheim-Ephratah students. It’s an agreement that benefits all our students,” Campione said in a news release.
The two districts shared sports programs and divided the cost until last year when a merger proposition between the two districts was defeated by Oppenheim-Ephratah voters.
If residents petition the state Department of Education, a revote on the merger could take place in Oppenheim-Ephratah in December.