Union High will field a varsity football team once again next season.
At Wednesday's meeting, Union Area School Board president Michael Hink invited interested board members to make a motion to add a vote for a football co-op to the agenda. Since none did so, Union no longer will consider a co-op at this time.
"It wasn't added to the agenda, so the football program will remain as is at Union," Superintendent Dr. Michael Ross said after the meeting. "I completed a presentation from what I've learned since the Sept. 25 meeting and explained that we reached out to students to gauge interest and the potential numbers we might be looking at.
"I am recommending, however, that we form a committee to increase interest, energy and engagement."
Some attendees were satisfied with the decision, while others were disappointed the board would not take a vote.
The board hosted a special meeting Sept. 25 attended by about 100 people to discuss a possible football co-op with either New Castle or Neshannock schools. No decision or vote was made at that meeting.
The board's regular voting meeting Wednesday was attended by around 20 people, including Amy Chornenky, a parent of two sons involved in sports at the school, who presented her comments and questions about a meeting her children attended at school on the topic.
"Basically, the tone of the meeting was that it would be horrible to co-op and shameful to wear any other color than blue and they (students) wouldn't have any school spirit if they didn't come out and play football," said Chornenky about the impression her children had of the meeting.
Chornenky questioned the validity of a petition that was passed around during the meeting for students who were interested in playing football next year to sign. She said kids who signed may have felt pressure to do so.
"I feel like we're putting the burden of adult problems on the shoulders of our kids," Chornenky said. "Is that really fair to them?"
Ross told the board that he didn't have any new information about the co-op that was not discussed at last month's meeting, except that 70 students, including current high school football players, signed the petition to play football next year.
Hink asked if Ross had a recommendation about the program.
"We're trying to predict the future," Ross said. "That's what really makes it a difficult decision. There's merit on both sides of the coin here."
Ross said after the meeting he did not give an opinion because he felt that the decision was up to the board.
"The board asked me for a recommendation and I didn't indicate my feelings one way or the other," he said. "They had the information I gathered and I wanted them to use it to make the best decision possible. We have the best interest of the students at heart and that was my focus in my research.
"This decision touches, not only the football team, but so many extra-curricular and ancillary activities," Ross added. "It is obviously a difficult decision in trying to solve a major problem. I told the board I would support whatever decision they made and make it work for everybody."
Union's player participation fluctuates throughout the season, but usually has about 15-20 on its roster depending on injuries.
The PIAA will begin realigning its classifications for football soon, so enrollment figures need to be reported this month. Union missed the deadline but was given an extension until Wednesday's meeting.
Ross said that veteran coach Stacy Robinson, who also is the school's athletic director, will soon decide if he will return for a 24th season, but his support is behind the former Scotties star. Union has one of the smallest enrollments in the WPIAL and has for many years.
"On my end, I have no interest in ending Stacy's employment," Ross said. "He's a great guy. He's struggled here year after year and made it work and as far as I'm concerned, he's earned the decision to stay as long as he wants to."
Robinson, who attended the meeting, also pledged his full support.
"I supported whatever they decided," Robinson said. "It was a big decision to make and a tough one, but I'm behind it."
In other board news:
•Kaylin Clingensmith was hired as a part-time elementary art teacher.
•The school's water testing results were approved.
•A tax abatement application from Mr. and Mrs. Mark Morelli for a new constriction on West State Street was approved.
•A LERTA application from Douglas McCaskey for a new construction on Mathews Way was approved.
•A facility request for the All-Purpose Room for Dec. 14 for Breakfast with Santa was approved.
•A special education agreement with Mr. and Mrs. Larry Seals was approved.
•A facility request by Larry Brown to ask patrons to sign a petition to add channel 33 to Comcast in the football parking lot on Oct. 25 was approved.