FORT VALLEY -- Peach County school officials will hear from parents at a community forum Thursday as the district considers merging athletic teams at Fort Valley and Byron middle schools to make one countywide middle school athletic program.
The potential change was brought about when Peach County Athletic Director Chad Campbell learned that Fort Valley Middle School would not be able to participate in its usual league during the upcoming school year.
The Bibb County Schools League, in which Fort Valley Middle School has competed since 2000, decided it would be more cost efficient and cut down on travel expenses to limit competition just to Bibb County, said Eddie Ashley, Bibbs athletic director.
It would also allow Bibbs seven middle schools more opportunities to compete against each other, he said.
That change puts Fort Valley Middle School in a bind.
Theres nobody around a two-hour radius that Fort Valley can play, so now were in a little dilemma on what to do with Fort Valley, Campbell said.
Byron Middle School has competed in the Central Georgia Middle School Athletic League, consisting of 15 teams from various counties, including Jones, Monroe and Crawford. That league, along with many of the surrounding middle school leagues, has already set its schedules for the upcoming year and is unable to take on an additional team, Campbell said.
Superintendent Joe Ann Denning said she couldnt see having athletics available to students on one side of the county and not available to those on the other, so Campbell proposed combining both district middle schools into a single Peach County program to compete in all sports in the Central Georgia league.
By merging the schools under this plan, seventh- and eighth-graders across the county would be able to play, but sixth-graders would not.
Additional plans would need to be made for soccer, which both schools played in the Bibb league but which is not offered in the Central Georgia league.
Though travel costs and practice locations would still need to be hashed out, the combined teams could save the district money over time, Campbell said.
I think right now were thinking in the short term, but it you could turn it into a long-term thing, and I think it could be very beneficial, he said, adding that the idea of merging the teams is not a new one in the county.
A single middle school program could also help boost player development before they reach the high school level by combining coaching staffs, increasing the instruction of fundamentals and creating relationships among players before they come together at Peach County High School.
I think this could be a win-win, Campbell told board members.
A Peach County Middle School black and gold Trojans team, matching Peach County High School athletic teams, was discussed during the Tuesday meeting, prompting board member Ben McDaniel to raise concerns over doing away completely with Byron Middles current mascot and colors.
Board member Donald Williams said he supports a uniform mascot and color scheme at all levels throughout the entire district, but Campbell said nothing was set in stone.
Campbell also considered allowing eighth-graders to play sub-varsity sports at the high school level, which would leave seventh-graders without a place to compete, but he suggested that the board go with his initial proposal of combining the middle school programs.
The community forum will be held 7:30 p.m., in the Board of Education building at 523 Vineville St. to give parents an opportunity to weigh in on the proposed decision to merge the programs, as well as colors and a team name.
To contact writer Caryn Grant, call 256-9751.