Amid growing concerns over projected enrollments, the Kishwaukee River Conference has voted Burlington Central out after the 2018-19 school year.
The other six member schools voted, 5-1, at last month’s KRC Board of Control meeting to no longer have Burlington as a member. It gives the Rockets two years to find a new league. Johnsburg was the lone dissenter among the KRC schools.
Enrollments at Johnsburg and Richmond-Burton are projected to reach near 600 or less within five years. During that same time frame, projections put Burlington’s enrollment at more than 1,300 students. The KRC members felt the best option was for Burlington to find another home.
“(Burlington) could be somewhere between 1,300 and 1,500 kids,” R-B athletic director Pat Elder said. “At that point, you’re talking about a school that would be (almost) three times bigger than some schools in our league. People at Burlington are great people, we’ve had a great relationship with them over the years. But when some people in our league’s projections are what they are and our projections are what they are, you have to do what you think’s best for everybody involved.”
The KRC just finished its first season of existence after its seven members broke off from previous conferences. Burlington, Harvard, Johnsburg, Marengo and R-B left the Big Northern Conference East Division, while Woodstock and Woodstock North split from the Fox Valley Conference.
“As a group we talked about the wealth of the conference and trying to make the playing field as level as possible,” Woodstock North AD Brady Stromquist said. “You kind of keep things as even as possible. That was our discussion. (Burlington) believes their growth is going to be pretty significant. As a growing concern for the conference, the decision was made.”
Johnsburg principal Kevin Shelton understands the projection problem, but did not want to vote Burlington out so soon.
“They were growing much faster than everybody else,” Shelton said. “In the first year of the conference, we just didn’t feel comfortable voting to remove a school from the KRC. That’s the base line of where we’re at.”
One possible concern could have come from District 200, where there was talk during the school year about the Woodstock schools consolidating. A six-team league, without Burlington, would work well for scheduling purposes, but five teams would pose problems.
“At a meeting we had, the community spoke out and said they did not want to consolidate two high schools,” Stromquist said. “At this point in time, I don’t think (consolidation) is on the table.”
Burlington’s enrollment is 1,049 for the upcoming school year, 22 more than Woodstock, which is next-biggest. Burlington won the first KRC Cup, which is awarded to the school with the best overall boys and girls sports, with 93 points. Johnsburg was next with 81.
Geographically, the two most likely landing spots for Burlington would be the Northern Illinois Big 12 and the FVC. The Rockets would match up better with most NIB-12 schools than the FVC, where it would be significantly smaller than the other members.
Sycamore AD Chauncey Carrick said the NIB-12 has spoken with Burlington. The NIB-12, which has two five-team divisions, expects Morris to leave for the Interstate Eight Conference, a 12-team league with two six-team divisions. That could open a spot for Burlington.
“We’ve had conversations (with Burlington) and we’d love to see them come, but it’s their decision,” Carrick said.
Elder emphasized that the decision was not meant as malicious, just business for the direction of the KRC.
“It was a numbers thing with enrollments,” Elder said. “You hate to see a situation come about where you have to part ways with them, but it’ll be better for Burlington in the long run to find a home where they’re with schools more their size. The people in our league felt it would be better for us to separate from that.”
IHSA enrollments for the 2017-18 school year for Kishwaukee River Conference schools:
Woodstock North 942
Burlington Central 1,049