The Breakup of the Year, LASA and LBJ UIL Split

Trevor Anderson, Copy Editor

In an effort to allow LASA and LBJ to form identities and expand their respective athletic programs before LASA’s move to the Eastside Memorial Early College High School campus in 2021, LBJ, administrators and district officials decided in November that LBJ and LASA’s athletic programs will completely separate from each other in the 2020-2021 school year. Despite this split, both schools will continue to coexist on the same campus. LBJ students will compete on the LBJ team and LASA students will compete on the LASA team. Fine arts programs, however, will stay together and incorporate students from both schools.
According to athletic director and head football coach Jahmal Fenner, the decision for LASA to move to another campus was made with the best interests of both schools in mind. He said that it was made to ensure that both schools would have proper athletic placement, as districts in UIL get realigned based on student population.
“I think the decision was determined based on LASA leaving in the middle of district realignment,” Fenner said. “So it was really a strategic decision to make sure that everything gets sorted out properly before district realignment, and both schools wouldn’t be in a bad spot when that realignment happens.”
Fenner said he understands the reasoning behind the move. However, when the decision was first announced, he expected that there would be issues getting students and teachers to adjust properly.
“I knew it was going to affect both campuses significantly, especially the kids,” Fenner said. “I know a lot of relationships have been built between the schools through athletics, and athletics has been the program that has connected both campuses, so that is unfortunate.”
Fenner said that though issues may arise, he feels confident that the transition will work out best for both campuses in the end. He said LASA will reap particular benefits from this transition period, as he believes it will grant the school time to get certain athletic programs off the ground.
“I also thought that it was a positive thing as well, because both programs get to focus on their schools and build those programs,” Fenner said. “When LASA does move and leave this building, they will have a decent program created and won’t have to start from the ground up.
Golf coach John Croston said that the sudden move will be a difficult adjustment for some. He expressed some apprehension that athletic teams are being split up while both schools are on the same campus.
“It’s going to involve a lot of change for LASA, but it’s very unfortunate that it has to happen this coming year,” Croston said. “I understand why the athletics have to split next year, but it’s going to be horrible for LASA if they get stuck in 6A. It’s a change that has to be made, but it will be tough next year while both schools are in the same building, but it is what it is.“
Croston said LASA will have a better time competing in some sports than others, specifically golf, baseball and swimming and diving. Though he said next year’s transition would be unfortunate, Croston said he liked the idea that more LASA students would be given the opportunity to play once the school has their own teams.
“LASA on its own will be very strong in some sports, and OK at other sports, but we’ll have more kids involved in things like basketball and football,” Croston said. “I think there’s a lot of kids who would play basketball and other sports who just can’t get the opportunity, so with LASA performing on its own, those kids who didn’t get a chance to play will have the opportunity, so that’s good.”
One concern that Fenner said he has heard consistently is a proper allocation of resources between schools’ programs. Provided both schools’ athletic programs stay on the LBJ campus, LASA and LBJ would need to share one football field, one baseball field and one gym. However, Fenner said that the district is working to grant both schools use of alternate offsite facilities to help both schools’ athletic programs.
“The district has said they will support us as well by allowing us to use central facilities like Delco and Noack, those facilities close to LBJ,” Fenner said. “We could use those for practices, use those for games, and so I think it will work out logistically, but we will all need to be able to communicate with each other.”
Fenner also said that he thinks more time could be allocated for athletics before, during and after the school day to help combat the logistical challenges. He said there is time enough for both schools to practice, even in the same facility, but the key is managing the time properly and efficiently.
“I think that since we have morning practices and after school practices and practice time during the day, we can schedule times to make sure they work for both schools,” Fenner said. “As long as people communicate and a system is created, it shouldn’t be that hard to make sure both schools have time to practice and play.”
As director of the First Ladies dance team, which is one of the programs that will remain united next year, Paige Edwards said she views the split in athletic teams as a very positive thing. According to Edwards, splitting athletic programs will allow both schools time to focus on their own pursuits, and learn to operate as separate entities.
“I think that the split in [2020]-[2021] will be helpful for both schools because they will be able to grow more and reach their full potential for their unique academic and extracurricular goals,” Edwards said.
According to Edwards, the First Ladies will have an easier time than most other athletic programs because they will still draw students from LASA and LBJ. She said she feels confident in her teams’ ability and has high hopes for the future.
“The team and I are hopeful for the best, and there will be a solid plan in time for next year,” Edwards said. “The main concern is football season, but other than that, staying together will be beneficial because we have limited space to practice for competition and spring show season.”
Time is of the essence when adapting to this new decision, according to Fenner. He said swiftness is as important as unity for school officials and coaches when making plans for next year.
“I think we have to start building right now, so that’s why I was in support of making that split, because if we decided not to do it because of the time constraints … we would constantly be behind the 8 ball,” Fenner said. “So my hopes are that plans will be made from here on out to ensure that both campuses have a good opportunity to succeed.”
Edwards agreed with Fenner’s sentiment that the split is ultimately a good thing for both schools. She said that, provided both schools are given adequate resources and time, splitting the athletic teams up will be looked at as a smart decision in the coming years.
“As with any change in life, I’m sure there will be roadbumps, but ultimately I believe both LBJ and LASA will be great,” Edwards said.