High school principals in Indian Prairie Unit District 204 are recommending a change in athletic conferences that could bring Metea, Neuqua and Waubonsie Valley high schools into the DuPage Valley Conference by fall 2015.
A final decision will be made next month, the deadline the conference has given the district to accept or decline an invitation to join its field of competition in nearly two years.
The change would mean leaving the Upstate 8, in which the district's high school athletes and competitors in extracurricular activities such as chess club have competed for about 20 years.
Principals and athletic directors at all three schools considered several factors before bringing the recommendation to change conferences to the school board Monday night, but finding the best fit for student athletes and club members was the foremost concern, Barb Barrows, athletic director at Neuqua Valley High School, said.
"Essentially what we're looking for is a partnership," Barrows said. "A partnership (where) we can compete equitably in athletics and our activities program."
She said the DuPage Valley Conference offers the best partnership in terms of levels of competition, activities offered, transportation, fan support and the ability to continue similar traditions while creating new rivalries.
The DuPage Valley Conference now includes Lake Park High School in Roselle, Glenbard North High School in Carol Stream, Naperville Central High School, Naperville North High School, Wheaton North High School and Wheaton Warrenville South High School. Lake Park joined this year and Community High School in West Chicago left to join the Upstate 8.
If the three District 204 schools join in 2015 without any other schools leaving, a nine-member conference will cause some football scheduling challenges, Jason Stipp, Waubonsie principal, said. Each team's schedule only would have room for one nonconference game each season. But with almost two years before the change would take effect, Stipp said scheduling could be worked out.
Football caused the most concern among board members, with Mark Rising and Benjamin White saying they worry about Metea's ability to compete against established powerhouse teams after opening only five years ago.
Metea Principal Jim Schmid, who was recognized Monday as the board decided to name the school's baseball field in his honor, said he has some concerns about the school's ability to succeed in football. But he would not sell short the abilities of players and coaches and said the DuPage Valley Conference seems to offer the best competitive opportunities.
"I think it's going to be extremely challenging for us initially," Schmid said. "I really believe futuristically it's the best thing for us to do as three very competitive and diverse high schools in District 204."
Schmid and the other high school principals will make the final decision sometime next month because they are members of the governing board of the Upstate 8, which actually has 14 schools in two divisions.
The Valley division includes Metea, Neuqua and Waubonsie, along with South Elgin, St. Charles East, St. Charles North and Streamwood high schools. The River division includes Bartlett, Batavia, East Aurora, Elgin and Geneva high schools along with Community High School in West Chicago and Larkin High School in Elgin.
School board members on Monday night advised the principals to give the Upstate 8 plenty of time to adjust and to exit in a classy fashion if switching to the DuPage Valley Conference becomes the final decision.
"We'd still be competing against Morris if we stayed with tradition and that's a long commute," board member Justin Karubas said. "This community member says it's time to join the DVC."