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South suburban schools formally announce creation of new conference

As expected, the District 196 schools -- Rosemount, Apple Valley, Eagan and Eastview -- announced they were withdrawing from the Lake Conference.

Along with several current Lake schools, and Prior Lake, the group will create the new 10-member South Suburban Conference beginning next season. Joining the District 196 schools in the new conference will be Bloomington Kennedy and Bloomington Jefferson, Lakeville North and Lakeville South, and Burnsville. Prior Lake will join, disbanding from the Missota Conference.

District 196 school superintendent Jane Berenz, along with the superintendents from the other four neighboring school districts announced the plans on Thursday. The move is pending approval by the school boards in all five districts.

According to the bylaws of the Lake Conference, letters of intent to withdraw must be submitted by member schools no later than Oct. 1 in order to take effect for the following school year.

According to a release, Prior Lake also has until Oct. 1 to declare its intentions in writing.

Berenz and the District 196 schools made their announcement based on reducing travel expenses after the expansion of the Lake Conference for the 2009-10 school year.

With the current Lake Conference, Rosemount's round trips to Eden Prairie, Hopkins, Minnetonka and Wayzata are all 60 miles or further. The trip from Rosemount to Wayzata is 74 miles round trip.

In the former league arrangement, Rosemount's furthest trip was 60 miles round trip to Eden Prairie.

Under the new alignment of the South Suburban Conference, Rosemount's longest trip would be 46 miles round trip to Prior Lake.

The average round trip of all schools in the Current Lake Conference is 38 miles. The average round trip for all schools in the proposed South Suburban Conference is 26 miles.

The process of conference realignment began when the Classic Lake conference began to disband. Robbinsdale Armstrong joined the Northwest Suburban Conference, leaving large-enrollment schools Edina, Hopkins, Minnetonka and Wayzata in limbo.

Last month, the Minnesota State High School League placed all four former Classic Lake Conference teams into the Lake Conference, a decision which was fought by the Lake Conference.

The decision by the MSHSL forced current Lake Conference schools to consider all options, including withdrawing from the Lake Conference and creating a new conference.

Last year, the Lake Conference consisted of 11 schools. It was expanded to 12 this season with the addition of the new Chanhassen High School. Chaska, an original Lake member, split forming Chaska and Chanhassen high schools in the southwest metro.

However, Chanhassen and Chaska will be joining the Missota Conference beginning next school year.

That left the Lake Conference with 14 schools, with the addition of the four Classic Lake members.

In the new South Suburban alignment, original Lake Conference member Eden Prairie would be left out. Eden Prairie will joining Edina, Hopkins, Minnetonka and Wayzata in an unknown position, possibly as their own large-school five-team conference. The arrangement likely would then cause the five schools to again seek placement from the MSHSL.

But for now, District 196 schools at least have a proposal in place on where they would like to be placed.

Now it is up the school boards to approve the proposal.