St. Michael-Albertville’s high school football team is anticipating a move from class 5A to 6A after the 2017 season, St. Michael-Albertville High School’s activities director, Brian Benson, said at a recent school board meeting.
The Minnesota State High School League reclassifies and reassigns all athletic and fine art programs every two years based on student population. Benson said STMA football was in line to join 6A during the last reclassification, but two other schools requested to bump up to 6A, leaving STMA in 5A. High schools with a student population above 1,626 typically play in 6A, he said, and the high school is expected to be over 1,800 students strong this fall. If the anticipated reclassification happens, Benson said STMA will be the 4th smallest school in their new district, and he cautioned it would take a few years of adjustment.
“It’s the next natural step for our football program,” high school head football coach Jared Essler said. “We believe our team is ready.”
Benson said it made sense for STMA football players to play teams throughout the season that are more competitive, as it will get them ready for post-season competition. The team would no longer play most of its familiar conference rivals such as Monticello and Rogers. This is unique to football, which plays strictly by class. Other sports continue to play their conference rivals during the regular season, even if there are multiple classes represented in the conference.
Benson said STMA High School was the 56th largest high school in the state five years ago, and it now ranks as the 30th largest, leapfrogging schools such as Elk River, Duluth East and St. Francis.
The reassignment process officially begins after school districts report their school size this October.
Athletic and activity fees will rise
In news affecting all sports and activities, Benson said activity fees would rise for the 2016-17 school year in accordance with the school board’s three-year plan to raise fees.
The district is in their final year of the plan to reach a goal of recouping 25 percent of their activity and athletic costs through activity fees. At most recent measure, the school district is getting close to that number, with fees currently funding 24 percent of costs.
Higher cost athletic programs in tiers one and two, such as hockey, volleyball, football and basketball, will see a $15 fee hike this coming school year. Tier three programs such as cross-country running, cheerleading and tennis will see a $10 increase.
Tier four programs, which include all fine arts and activities such as math league, mock trial and extra curricular vocal and instrumental programs, will go up $15 from last year.
Though fees are going up, Benson said STMA is one of the few districts to still offer annual individual and family activity fee caps. The caps for the upcoming school year are set at $375 for an individual and $650 for a family. He said the Big Lake school district recently compiled information on activity and athletic fees throughout the area, and STMA came in “in the middle of the pack.”
Benson stressed the importance of the fee raises, saying the middle school and high school are seeing increased participation in all programs, and that additional funding is needed to hire sufficient coaching staff and purchase necessary equipment for all players.
“In the future, this school district will have to review continuing increased participation, and the level at which we choose to fund these programs,” Benson said. “We should be good for now, but we’re only going to continue to grow, and how do we address that growth in regards to funding the programs.”