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Dipping Enrollment Causes Schools to Think Football Merger

2:56 PM, Mar 7, 2013   |    comments
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EAST AURORA, NY - Declining enrollment in schools is affecting one area in the Southtowns and causing two school districts to get creative.

East Aurora and Holland Central schools could soon form one high school football team.

For East Aurora football, this is the chance to add more players to a depleted roster. Last season, East Aurora was 1-7 and had to forfeit a game because the team didn't have enough players. For Holland Central, this is the chance for the district to have its first football program ever.

"We have seen over the course of the years, we've lost some kids who have left our school for enrollment, because they haven't had the opportunity to play," said Matt Adams, the athletic director for Holland Central Schools.

The two school districts are discussing this plan. It also requires state approval. And the state's athletic association needs to sign off on it as well.

East Aurora really needs players. School officials say this past season, the team only had 22 players. The minimum amount to play a game is 16.

"[The plan is] aimed at retaining a very important school program for the East Aurora school district and at the same time creating an opportunity for a neighboring school district," said Eric Sweet, board member of the East Aurora School District.

According to Sweet, the district has about 1,800 students -- 300 less than it had ten years ago. Student enrollment is declining so fast that on the field play has been affected.

"Because the school district at East Aurora has already experienced a couple forfeited games and shortage in players so there is a need there," said Sweet.

Holland Central plans to fundraise for the students to buy equipment and play at East Aurora.

Ian Secord is a sophomore at Holland Central High, he says that his school desperately needs a football program. 

"So we can play football when we're older, but we've never had that chance," he said. 

If the plan is approved, the team may be called East Aurora-Holland and still be known as the Blue Devils. Holland Central would have to pay their own way to hit the field.

"That money will be raised and donated through the Holland Raiders football youth organization that we have in town, they're going to work really closely with the parents to help fund raise that money," said Adams.

Fundraising is needed because the district has said there's no extra money in the budget to pay for the new program.

The two school districts are about ten miles away from each other and are rivals in certain sports. So, they'll have to give up the bad blood if they come together on the football field.

This is something that's already being done at Buffalo schools. Also, Lyndonville and Medina merged their programs a few years ago.

The plan requires approval from the state education department and each school district. East Aurora officials say that the state athletic association supports the idea and may keep the school's classification what it is now, even with the merger.

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