Board hears proposal to bring girls basketball back to Sheffield

Sheffield would like to bring its varsity girls basketball program back.

Officials say there are enough students to support the program in addition to strong junior high participation. But the decision to shutter that program and co-op with Warren bumped the Dragons up a classification. And that decision is locked in for the next two seasons.

The Warren County School District board of directors heard arguments from both Sheffield and Warren during Monday night’s committee meetings. The board didn’t act on the proposal Monday but did decide to not discuss the issue further until the current basketball season — the Lady Dragons are 12-5 and have won seven in a row — is completed.

Sheffield Principal Misty Weber said that Corey Copley, the school’s athletic director, has been analyzing costs associated with bringing the program back.

“We have also spoken to the girls just to see if there’s interest,” she said, “and there are 13 confirmed students that have said they would like to play.”

Currently, three Sheffield students make the trip into Warren to play for the Lady Dragons.

“Every one of these young ladies,” Warren Athletic Director Jeff White said, “they are all an integral part of our basketball team. We’ll not be as competitive as we are with them.”

Copley estimated a cost for a full schedule of 22 games at about $19,000 but said the “reality of things” is “probably a little bit lower.”

“Sheffield is on the edge of numbers,” he said, with “concern for participation. At the current time, we have a strong interest level. The junior high program for us had a record number this past year.”

He recommended, though, that the program not rejoin a league in District 9. That decision would be to “not put other schools in peril” if participation becomes a problem down the line.

Board member Stephanie Snell said she is “pretty confident” that the numbers won’t be a problem for the next four years.

But the decision is complicated by the effect that the initial co-op had on the Warren program.

White outlined a timing challenge — the PIAA worked through the reclassification process last fall to cover the 2024-2025 and 2025-2026 seasons.

“If a co-op was to be ended,” he said, “it needed to be done by Dec. 1. If not, you have to play at the level you’re already at.”

Warren is currently competing at the AAAA level based on its enrollment before the co-op. A co-op requires half of the co-opting school’s population to be counted with the school where the program is housed. That piece of Sheffield plus Warren pushes Warren out of AAAA into AAAAA.

“It brought it out to one student over the number,” White said.

That required Warren to make a decision – move to AAAAA where the only other team at that level in the region is Cathedral Prep or bump up to 6A with Erie and McDowell in an effort to dodge Cathedral Prep.

Warren chose 6A “to give students better opportunities,” White said, at winning district and region titles.

They’re now stuck with that decision for the next two-year cycle.

“If Sheffield has a team, we can’t go back to being a 4A team,” White said. “You are hurting a group of kids.”

“The timing stinks,” board member Tammi Holden acknowledged. “These ninth graders (at Sheffield) are wondering where they’re going…. There has to be something to be said for it also. There’s something to be said for kids being able to play on their home court,” she added, citing the inconvenience for parents of having to travel to Warren for their girls to play.

Board member John Wortman then asked that the conversation be postponed until the current season is over.

“I think for us as a school board to interject ourselves into this at this point would be a disservice to our athletes,” Wortman said.

“We do have time,” Director of Administrative Support Services Gary Weber said. “I know everybody wants an answer.”

The board decided to bring the issue back to the first meeting after the current season is over.

Snell said she was “not trying to be negative here” but said the message could be interpreted that it’s more important for Warren to be competitive than for Sheffield to have a program.

She asked if making a decision in March would cause a hindrance.

“We’ll make it work,” Copley said, acknowledging there will be “less choices” and “limited opportunities” to schedule games.


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