FRILLS CORNERS - It looks like the proposed girls' soccer cooperative agreement between North Clarion and Clarion will have to wait -- if it ever happens at all.

The assembled North Clarion School Board which did not have the required five members present for a quorum -- was informed by North Clarion Superintendent Steve Young at the board work session June 7 the district couldn't enter into a soccer cooperative agreement with Clarion this year because it is the middle of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) two-year classification cycle.

"When we took action on (the soccer) co-op our understanding was we were on cycle for the (co-op with Forest Area) to end and for us to start another co-op with another district," Young said. "It turns out we are mid-cycle."

Young continued, "What does that actually mean if you are mid-cycle? Well, if you are mid-cycle, and because of the new co-op forming it would change the classification number of that host school. So if the host school's enrollment numbers go up, (the PIAA) will not let you enter into a co-op mid-cycle. At the last board meeting we had a discussion where the board asked that question and the answer we gave you was not accurate."

The original vote to dissolve the soccer co-ops with Forest Area came at North Clarion's regular board meeting May 10. The motion passed by a 6-1 margin with Scott Daum the lone dissenting vote.

Also at that meeting, the board voted unanimously to enter into a girls' soccer co-op with Clarion while also voting to enter into discussions with Clarion-Limestone about forming a boys' soccer co-op.

Both of those votes passed by a unanimous margin. Additionally, the Clarion Area School Board unanimously voted to accept North Clarion as a girls' soccer co-op member at its regular meeting May 11.

Board member James Shaftic asked Young if the district's only option was to return to the co-op with Forest Area.

Young responded, "The concern that parents had was if Forest Area had enough players to field a team. Forest Area is telling us they have enough players for both a boys' and a girls' team with their students alone."

Young informed the board if at the beginning of the next soccer season that a Forest Area/North Clarion co-op would not have enough players to field a team, North Clarion could reach out to join a soccer co-op with another district, however, the host school of the new co-op would not be permitted to take part in the postseason playoffs in the fall of 2021.

North Clarion Athletic Director Bonnie Wolbert told the board Forest Area had enough players signed up that they would be able to host both a girls' varsity team and a boys' varsity team.

Last season, the Forest Area/North Clarion co-op numbers were so low that Forest Area had to combine the boys' and girls' teams into a co-ed team which played a boys' schedule.

Many of the North Clarion girls' soccer parents were not happy their female children were playing against males due to safety concerns.

The reason North Clarion can't join the Clarion co-op mid-cycle is because it will put the Clarion team (which is already hosting Clarion-Limestone in the co-op) would move from the Class A to the Class 2A classification.

Wolbert said the district didn't tell Forest Area it had decided to dissolve the soccer co-ops and it only came up in a meeting with the school. Wolbert stated if the board is going to dissolve a co-op, that it should inform her of the move officially in writing.

The current Forest Area soccer co-ops are scheduled to host players from the Abraxas 1 Youth and Family Services which girls' soccer parents Nate and Jennifer Siegel aired their concerns.

"What we are worried about is the (Abraxas) girls inappropriately touching our girls," Nate Siegel said.

"We had talked to a parent whose daughter had played against Abraxas and it was more like the (Abraxas) players were groping them," Jennifer Siegel said. "That is a concern."

Shaftic responded to Jennifer Siegel's worries.

"I guess our only option would be not to field a team then," Shaftic said. "Your option as parent is to not have your children participate because we don't have any other options."

North Clarion School Board Vice-President Jeff Barron said the board was out of options when it came to the Forest Area co-op.

"We can only go by our own experiences or when something occurs," Barron said. "We have no say when it comes to approving Abraxas into the co-op. That's the problem when you are a secondary school in the co-op."

Jennifer Siegel also asked what some of the security steps in place for the Abraxas players were.

North Clarion boys' soccer parent Annette Wolbert informed Siegel there were two chaperones for every six players and the players did not ride on the same team bus as the rest of the team. Wolbert went on to say that Abraxas had been in successful co-ops with Sheffield and Forest Area for many years.

Jennifer and Nate Siegel asked Young who they would inform if there was an issue with an Abraxas player in regards to safety. Young informed her to tell the North Clarion administration and they would contact Forest Area.

Wolbert had spoken earlier in the meeting to question why the North Clarion boys' soccer players leaving the Forest Area program was even being discussed. She said the only year the Forest Area boys' soccer program had an issue in regards to participation was last season and she feels the lull was due to the safety concerns due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wolbert was also strongly against joining Clarion-Limestone in a boys' soccer co-op due to the much longer traveling distances from North Clarion to Clarion-Limestone than from North Clarion toe Forest Area.

Nate Siegel wanted to clear up some of his comments he made at the May 3 North Clarion work session regarding the soccer co-op.

"All we want to do is to have our girls be able to play," Siegel said. "There were comments made here tonight that we want to choose Clarion because that's where we want to play, and that isn't the case. Our original concern was to have a place to play and we wanted to be proactive in that regard.

"We know right now, (Forest Area) is our option and we are going to deal with that. This kind of blew up into something bigger than it needed to be. We didn't want to go play with Clarion because they were so great; we wanted a place for our girls to play, period."

Nate Siegel also said if Forest Area was not able to field a girls' team in the fall, he would not want North Clarion to join Clarion in an emergency co-op if that meant Clarion would not be able to take part in the playoffs.

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