JOHNSBURG – On Tuesday night, Johnsburg became the latest high school to join the Kishwaukee River Conference after a unanimous vote at its District 12 School Board meeting.
The move comes on the heels of Richmond-Burton similarly voting to join the new conference at its school board meeting last week. With Johnsburg and R-B now in the fold, the KRC has seven members, which also includes Burlington Central, Harvard, Marengo, Woodstock and Woodstock North.
The KRC is scheduled to debut in the 2016-17 academic year. To begin play by then, Johnsburg needed to provide two years’ notice to the Big Northern Conference by Aug. 1.
“The move’s going to be the best for our kids when our farthest drive will be to Marengo instead of Mendota or Rock Falls,” Johnsburg athletic director Tom Ross said afterward. “It’ll benefit our student-athletes with less bus times and less travel times.”
Ross cited the proximity of the KRC schools as the primary reason behind the move.
Had Johnsburg bucked the trend of other East Division schools by remaining in the BNC, where it is set to begin play this fall after leaving the Fox Valley Conference, it undoubtedly would have faced significant logistical concerns over the distance for conference games. Its shortest trip would have been to Rockford Christian – 44 miles away. Comparatively, its longest trip at the moment in the KRC would be to Burlington Central – 37 miles away. Moreover, most BNC trips would be more than 60 miles.
“When driving to Rockford Christian for a 4:30, 5, 5:30, 6 p.m. volleyball game,” Ross said, “you’re student-athletes aren’t getting home until 9 o’clock at night, and then then they have to get up at 7 in the morning for another day of school. You've got to remember they’re student-athletes, not athletes first and then students second.”
Superintendent Dan Johnson echoed similar thoughts regarding the proximity of the KRC schools.
“It’ll be beneficial to our kids, and our community,” he said, “because we’re going to save a considerable amount of travel time, and they’re natural rivals for us.”
Along with principal Kevin Shelton, Ross gave a presentation to the board at a June 10 meeting regarding the move to the KRC, weighing a number of factors from travel to enrollment projections.
For Johnsburg, the invitation from the KRC marked a sort of delicate situation to navigate despite the upside of travel. Before 2006-07, Johnsburg had been a member of the BNC before moving to the FVC. But as Johnsburg's enrollment dropped – it will fall to 680 by next fall, Ross said – it looked to return to the BNC. Then the KRC invitation came up.
“It’s very unique,” Johnson said of the dynamic. “It’s why you want to make sure you do things the right way.”
To date, Johnsburg has not attended any KRC meetings out of respect for the BNC, Ross said.