HOLTON (KSNT) – A small 2A school has big plans.
The USD 335 school board voted Monday for Jackson Heights High School to add baseball and softball, starting the 2022-23 school year.
The effort became a serious thought six months ago. It took just three months to get the logistics figured out and passed through the school board.
It was easy for Jackson Heights to add these sports because there’s no worry about filling teams or finding coaches. Jeremy Melvin and Samantha Carson noticed student interest in baseball and softball, so they took a campus survey. Around 60 students said they wanted to join the new teams.
“One of the first sports you play growing up is baseball or softball, so you fall in love with it at age 6, all the way up to 14,” Melvin said. “To see some of those kids just hang it up, and when you ask them how come, they go ‘Well, what’s the point? We don’t have high school and I’m not going to play travel ball.’ So, bringing that opportunity here and seeing the smiles and the excitement, not just for the kids but for the community itself, it’s about to be an amazing thing.”
Melvin and Carson will be the coaches. Both played their sports in college and came up with the board-approved plan.
“Kids would come to me and say, ‘Come to my softball game. Come to my baseball game,’ whatever it was,” Carson said. “I had shared with them that I played softball my whole life. That’s my favorite sport, and so we would have conversations about that and then, just this past spring I helped coach one of the youth teams.”
Parents and the community support the decision. Baseball will play its games at community fields in Netawaka. Softball games will be at a community field in Circleville.
Hopefully, adding these sports will help the school get more students, superintendent Jim Howard said. Before, not having these sports was potentially pushing students with serious interest in them to choose other high schools in the area.
“We find, the more opportunities we offer to students, the more likely they are to be engaged,” Howard said. “The more engaged students are, the more successful they are in, not only their sport, but in the classroom as well.”
Jackson Heights is in the Northeast Kansas League. Other schools in the conference are: Valley Falls, Jefferson County North (does not have baseball/softball), Oskaloosa, McLouth, Maur Hill, Pleasant Ridge, and Atchison County.