Move from Missota to South Suburban closer to reality

Farmington School Board to vote Monday

The Farmington School Board is scheduled to vote on joining the South Suburban Conference at its Monday, Jan. 28 meeting.

The move was discussed Jan. 7, but board members postponed the vote until the business meeting.

“I got the feeling that there wasn’t enough time for the work session and it wasn’t the right forum for the public,” said Farmington athletic and activities director Jon Summer, who made a presentation Jan. 7. “By putting it at the 28th it gives people the opportunity to speak for or against.”

If approved, it would give Farmington High School new opponents in athletics and activities. Farmington currently is a member of the Missota Conference.

Board Member Julie Singewald said she knew of community members who had concerns about the move.

“I had parents share concerns with being able to compete,” Singewald said. “You want the programs to be successful, and I don’t want kids to get discouraged. Parents spend a lot of money on sports.”

She said she was cautiously supportive of the move to the South Suburban Conference, but she wanted anyone with concerns to have a chance to speak.

The South Suburban Conference, established in 2010, is considered one of the most competitive conferences in the state for athletics.

The conference features Apple Valley, home of a wrestling team that has been ranked No. 1 in the country in recent years and one of the top-ranked basketball players in the nation in Tyus Jones. And that’s just one of 10 schools.

If the move is approved, “the moment they do that I will send a letter to the Missota that we will be done at the end of the 2013-14 school year,” Summer said.

Proximity is one of the main reasons Farmington is considering the switch. The average distance for travel to Missota schools is 27 miles. In the South Suburban Conference, it’s 12 miles. The move would cut transportation costs and mean less time spent on the road, district officials say.

The South Suburban Conference features schools from neighboring districts such as Lakeville, Rosemount and Apple Valley. Bloomington Jefferson is the most distant SSC school from Farmington.

Farmington is the second-largest school in the Missota in terms of enrollment and is growing. In the South Suburban, Farmington would be in the middle.

“We’re starting to look more like the neighboring schools,” Summer said.

Farmington isn’t breaking new ground.

The South Suburban Conference also includes Prior Lake, which left the Missota Conference in 2010. Prior Lake was the Missota’s largest school when it left.

“It’s been 100 percent positive,” Prior Lake athletic and activities director Eric Rodine said of the switch to the South Suburban Conference. “Our farthest trip is 17 miles. It’s great for our parents to be able to see all of our games. It’s helped us compete with schools our size and in our same class.”

Prior Lake remained a competitive force after leaving the Missota.

The Lakers football team won a share of the South Suburban Conference championship last fall and qualified for state for the second straight season. The boys hockey team is in the top four in the conference this season and is ranked 11th in Class AA, and the wrestling team is ranked No. 3 in the state.

Can Farmington hang with the South Suburban schools?

“From an outsider looking in, I think Farmington will do just fine,” Rodine said. “The youth already play at that level and they have some great facilities over there to motivate them.

“It’s going to be a great addition to the conference.”

Prior Lake had to make some adjustments when it joined the South Suburban. The dance team schedule had to modified, its Knowledge Bowl team was transformed into a Quiz Bowl team and the school added Science Olympiad as an activity.