Editor’s Note: This story is reported by Maxwell News Correspondent Susan Livesay in her own personal account.
For time and the world do not stand still. Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future. — John F. Kennedy
This past Monday and Tuesday, the Pritchard brothers, Randy and Bob of Maxwell, held two town meetings to present their idea of a different vision for the school and students who go to Collins-Maxwell.
Randy Pritchard opened his presentation in Maxwell by telling both groups that this wasn’t a "sanctioned school board meeting." He had invited School Board President Lowell Crouse; School Superintendent Jason Ellingson and a few other board members attended as well.
Crouse spoke to the crowd for a few minutes and gave a brief history of the sports-sharing arrangement that has gone on between the two schools (Collins-Maxwell and Baxter) for the past 26 years. The Sports Sharing Agreement is something the board votes on every two years.
Lowell commented on the board’s past joint meeting this year with Baxter’s school board, and the previous year to discuss possible Whole Grade Sharing, and that at this time — the board is nowhere close to making a decision on that topic.
Randy presented a very different idea to an almost filled community center in Maxwell. Some heads were nodding in agreement to what he was saying, listening intently, and some were looking like they were not quite sure. What is the "new vision" or "new idea" Randy and Bob have proposed to Collins and Maxwell citizens? Well, I will say it was quite a 180 from where we had been headed before.
The main points presented, and again I will point out, these are ideas, NOT school plans, just something Randy and Bob wanted people to look at, think about and wonder – "Hey, is there something else that our towns can do, besides what the school boards have been discussing?"
• End the sports-sharing agreement with Baxter. Yes, it has gone on for 26 years, but is it what is still best for all towns? Over the past few years, Maxwell has seen almost all the home football games go to Baxter, and recently all the varsity basketball games are now played in Baxter. (This is due to a change from the Heart of Iowa Athletic Conference, which now requires the school to have two regulation-sized gyms in order to have the varsity boys and girls play the same nights. Maxwell only has one regulation-sized gym at this time).
• Build a new sports complex north of Maxwell. There is land for sale; it is big enough for the school to build a football stadium, track, field and parking.
• Keep the original 1931 school building, but re-purpose it for other uses, and allow the old gym and weight room to be used by the public.
• Build a new high school, with commons, lunchroom, new kitchen, science lab on the east side of the 1931 building, with elevator access to the top floors of the old 1931 building.
• Convert some of the current football field into new parking, while making the current football field the practice field.
• Revamp the old tennis courts back into half basketball courts, and half tennis courts.
(The entire presentation in length can be read at http://www.collins-maxwell.com/. Please take a moment to click on the online survey at their website as well. Randy and Bob will take the results to the next school board meeting.)
The brothers ended the meeting by opening it up for a question-and-answer period. Some asked questions of Randy, others directed them to the school board members or others just voiced opinions of how things have gone with Baxter over the years. One parent brought up the Rec Sports, which are for grades kindergarten through sixth grade – and mentioned that her child does not wish to go back out for football this fall because of so many practices being in Baxter. After the practices and the long car ride back home, having supper and then homework, she said her son just is too tired to get it all done.
Another parent who was in favor of continuing the sports agreement brought up that some class sizes are not big enough without Baxter to make up some sports teams, so her son would have not have a chance to play basketball that season, if we were not affiliated with Baxter.
A local businessowner brought up that losing the hometown games has hurt his business, because it doesn’t get as much traffic in town from the kids or other customers.
Now in any small town, you know news travels fast, and of course with social media, I am sure you can imagine what Facebook was doing by Tuesday morning. I did not attend the meeting the next night in Collins, but I know Randy and Bob did present their same ideas to another packed community center, and there were several students in attendance that night as well. Lots of emotions had taken off with current high school students and parents, as well as past graduates.
I asked a few townspeople their thoughts about Whole Grade Sharing, and quite a few parents have commented if that goes through, they would probably take their child out of Collins-Maxwell schools and open enroll into another school. Their top reason is the distance and the drive to Baxter, or the road-crossing issue.
Sports-Sharing: This issue is split pretty much down the middle from the people I have listened to. Some are OK with it as is, some like the idea of looking at other options.
I did ask a couple of high school students a few questions, since this has hit the Facebook pages pretty hard - what they thought about the bus rides to Baxter to practice, and if there wasn’t a school in Maxwell anymore … here are some of the comments they’ve made:
From Tucker Maxwell, C-M Freshman
First of all, I’ve always gotten along with Baxter kids. have some really good friends who are from Baxter, as you know I’ve been playing football with them since third grade. I also have a really good relationship with my coach, who happens to be from Baxter.
Driving to Baxter has never been a problem. Sure I do complain occasionally, because Baxter never has to do it, but you make sacrifices for the greater good of a dream; that dream is to contend for a state title. Every team in the state has a bump in the road; ours just happens to be a 30-minute bus ride.
I’ve never really had trouble getting homework done either. It’s something I’m so used to that I don’t complain about it. The part I do complain about is the fact I have schoolwork!
If there wasn’t a school in Maxwell, it would still be a great place to live. Logsdon’s sandwiches are top of the line; you can’t get them anywhere else. Maxwell has a great vibe and community feel.
Being a part of Collins-Maxwell-Baxter has always been a large part of who I am and who I want to be. I didn’t lay in bed all those nights as a little kid, or even now, dreaming about playing for just Collins-Maxwell. I dreamed about playing for Collins-Maxwell-Baxter. CMB has a great ring to it and no matter what; I never want to be anything but a Raider.
From Creighton Caple, C-M Freshman
I have loved playing with kids from Baxter because I have known them for almost as long as my Collins-Maxwell friends. Having practice in Baxter and then doing homework is no big deal. If you are a student athlete, you are sometimes going to have to do your homework late at night due to games being in places like Greene County (Jefferson) that is two hours away. If the school was in between Baxter and Collins, yes, I believe people would still live here. But to me personally, if this argument is about driving to Baxter, then look at the teams we would play if we joined Colo-Nesco’s conference (if we split from Baxter). For football, we would drive roughly around 700 miles, compared to the 400 right now. When we have to drive further for away games, less people go to the games to support our teams, athletes get home later and the school has higher transportation expenses.
Baxter has the facilities that we don’t have. Why spend millions of dollars on a sports complex when we already have access to one, and use the money instead to build a school that enhances our education. If we whole grade share, we can also make closer bonds with our teammates, as we’ll be with them all day instead of just at practice.
I talked to a few sixth-graders about their opinions, as most of them have had limited sports exposure with Baxter so far. Some have played volleyball or football with them, but then played against them for REC basketball. Their answers were mostly - oh, we don’t care if we play with Baxter or not.
This I do find most interesting, because at this age they have not had the chance to form close bonds with Baxter players and could easily make the transition if sports sharing was discontinued.
Jason Ellingson was nice enough to take some time to answer a few questions the other night, and I didn’t want to go in and re-hash everything that had been going on the entire week over social media or through the halls of the school. I just asked him how he felt about someone from the community bringing up their own idea or vision to the towns.
Jason commented that he appreciated the vision and facility discussion that has come from other members in the community; anytime someone wants to discuss the facilities (school buildings), it is a good thing. And Jason also wanted to say (that) out (of) all of this, he wants to have a strong school, great neighborhood and a good park system.
He also clarified something for me, which I had not previously understood. Whole Grade Sharing, which is what the boards have previous discussed, is something they can vote on, without a vote from the towns. It is a school board decision only. For example, they can decide to move only the middle school to Baxter, leave the elementary and high schools where they are, and the towns would have no say in the matter.
If they wanted to have a school consolidation, like what we did with Collins many years ago, then the towns would vote.
I started off this article with a quote from John F. Kennedy about change. As all the emotions are still running high in a lot of people from last Monday’s meeting, and since Randy and Bob chose to be the ones to stand up and speak for many and share their ideas with the citizens of Collins-Maxwell, it takes me to another favorite quote of mine.
Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen. — Winston Churchill
I started school as a Rocket, became a Panther in middle school and graduated as a Raider. Did it change my school spirit in any way by changing our team name three times? Not really. In the end I am still from Maxwell, proud to be in the Collins-Maxwell school district and will help to make sure our kids have a good future here as well. When we all work together, amazing things can happen — no matter what logo is on your jersey.