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Northside Methodist Academy’s efforts to join the Alabama High School Athletic Association have taken a few more steps and could be a reality next week.

The Dothan private school was visited by two AHSAA officials last Friday as part of the association’s “site study” leading up to Wednesday’s AHSAA Central Board of Controls meeting in Montgomery.

It is at that meeting the AHSAA will consider Northside Methodist’s application to join the association. The meeting takes place 10 a.m. at the AHSAA offices.

The Northside Methodist Academy board voted to seek AHSAA membership in November. The school, which has existed since 1975, has participated in the AISA the last eight years. Prior to that, it was a member of the Alabama Christian Education Association.

“They (NMA officials) will make a presentation to the board explaining why they want to become members of our association then our executive staff that visited the school will comment on what they evaluated while they were there,” AHSAA Executive Director Steve Savarese said of Wednesday’s meeting. “Then the board will vote to either accept them or not accept them as a member.”

If accepted, Northside Methodist would mostly likely be an associate member for two years, effective after this school year ends. As an associate member, NMA will be able to compete against AHSAA members in all sports and have to abide by AHSAA by-laws and Constitution, but would not be eligible for championship or postseason play.

The school, which is located on Redmond Road in north Dothan, offers athletic opportunities in football, volleyball and girls and boys cross country in the fall, girls and boys basketball in the winter plus baseball, softball, girls and boys soccer, girls and boys track/field, girls and boys tennis and golf in the spring.

The school will be represented at next week’s meeting by Head of School Bill Reif and NMA High School Principal Robiann Gilbert.

Reif said there won’t be any “big, polished presentation” from the school at the meeting, but rather brief factual statements about “the heart of Northside Methodist Academy.”

Reif was pleased at last week’s visit from AHSAA Associate Executive Director Alvin Briggs and Assistant Director Denise Ainsworth.

“Overall, a super encouraging, very supportive visit,” Reif said.

Reif said NMA and AHSAA officials visited for roughly two and a half hours, going over details about the school and looking over the facilities.

“I would say there were two purposes (of their visit),” Reif said. “One is they needed to see our facilities and even though I don’t feel we have the best facilities in the world, I think they met their expectations completely.

“The second thing was just to spend time with us, to get to know us and answer any questions. It was a great visit in that regard. It was encouraging for us to go forward with this.”

Savarese said the “site study” is designed for several reasons, including seeing documents verifying if the school meets AHSAA requirements.

“We go first of all to meet the administrators and make sure the school is in accordance with all of our by-laws as it relates to education and athletics whether it is accreditation, facilities or the number of sports they have,” Savarese said. “We want to review their mission and see if it aligns with our mission”

Among the requirements, as listed in the AHSAA Handbook, for membership are:

(1)   Have SACS accreditation or the equivalent.

(2)   Register with the State Department of Education

(3)   File a school profile with the AHSAA

(4)   Have at least 70 percent of its faculty as certified teachers

(5)   Conduct background checks of its facility and staff

(6)   Offer at least five girls and five boys varsity sports.

If it joins the AHSAA, Northside Methodist will cut down on travel as well improve its home gates, major factors in the decision to join the association.

Currently in the AISA, Northside Methodist competes against only one program less than an hour away (Abbeville Christian) with two teams roughly an hour away (Pike Liberal Arts and Lakeside). Potentially in the AHSAA, the Knights will have close to a dozen programs within 45 minutes, including city programs Dothan, Houston Academy and Providence Christian. Most of those schools are close to their size.

While Northside Methodist competes in most sports on its campus, the Knights play their football games at Layton Field in Ashford, which was once the home of the now defunct Ashford Academy.

Reif said the program will continue to play in Ashford, but will increase seating at the facility with more bleachers.

While there has been desire to have an on-campus football facility, Reif said, “There is no availability of land available around us” for a stadium and that a new stadium elsewhere was in the “dream stages” with nothing close to feasible.

In anticipating a potential move to the AHSAA, Northside Methodist coaches in fall sports have been busy making schedules, including head football coach Jason Hurst, who has already finalized a varsity and junior varsity schedule for the 2020 season.

A historical first varsity game is scheduled for Aug. 21 at Houston County, followed by a road game the following week at potential city rival Providence Christian, located just 3.1 miles from the NMA campus. The first home game in Ashford Academy is Sept. 4 against Slocomb.

The 10-game schedule features games against all five Houston County schools plus the city rivalry contest against Providence Christian. The lone nearby close team not on the schedule is Houston Academy, a school just 2.3 miles away.

The schedule also features five home games at Layton Field and five road games, including one in Camilla, Ga., against Baconton Charter.

2020 Northside Methodist Football Schedule

Aug. 21           at Houston County

Aug. 28           at Providence Christian

Sept. 4             Slocomb

Sept. 11           Wicksburg

Sept. 18           Open

Sept. 25           at Cottonwood

Oct. 2              at Baconton Charter (Ga.)

Oct. 9              New Brockton

Oct. 16                        at Daleville

Oct. 23                        Rehobeth

Oct. 30                        Ashford

2020 NMA JV Schedule

Aug. 31           at Providence Christian

Sept. 8             at Geneva County

Sept. 14           Providence Christian

Sept. 21           Cottonwood

Sept. 28           at Cottonwood

Oct. 5              at Houston County

Oct. 12                        Ashford

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