Playing a sport in high school can be a defining experience for some but for students at the La Crescent Montessori and STEM charter school, that experience is not an option. They are mere blocks away from the La Crescent-Hokah district, but they are technically their own separate school district.
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"For me it's kind of upsetting," 10th grade student Tia Wagner, who wants to join the cross country team. "When you get to see other people having and being able to do these sports that you're not able to participate in, it's kind of frustrating."
The public charter school only has 14 students in their 7th through 12th grade class.
"We have a small group, we would never be able to come up with teams and engage in that sort of thing," said La Crescent Montessori and STEM's Head of School Stephanie Wehman.
They would need a cooperative agreement with the La Crescent-Hokah district who have declined similar requests in the past saying enrollment is a matter of parental choice and those activities are available based on that choice.
"They knew what the two options were," said La Crescent-Hokah Superintendent Kevin Cardille. "If they chose [Montessori and STEM], I would think that they looked at all the offerings that we had versus them and they chose that. I would be surprised if they were frustrated."
However, charter students said they are frustrated and that they have not necessarily played a part in that school choice.
"If we want to do sports but our parents won't let us move, we aren't able to participate in regular high school student sports," Wagner said.
The students at La Crescent Montessori and STEM are hoping to change community and administration minds through a petition called "All Means All" asking for a cooperative agreement. Students said that petition is providing its own challenges because of how relatively unknown their school is.
Until a would-be agreement is made it's a no-go unless they re-enroll in La Crescent-Hokah and leave their school behind.
"I would be afraid of enrolling in a completely different school just to do a sport," Wagner said. "I would feel like I am betraying my school."
Another hurdle stands in the way for La Crescent Montessori and STEM students. To be involved in competitive athletics, your school has to be a member of the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL). Currently they are not a member, which means their students would be ineligible even if a cooperative agreement was in place. Both would need to happen for those students to play.
So far, the La Crescent-Hokah district says they do not have an interest in a cooperative agreement.
The issue is not a concern over the river in La Crosse because those Montessori schools are directly connected to the public school district. Students transition to the district high schools once they complete 8th grade.