When O.P. Walker and Landry high schools in New Orleans merged in 2013, the move was meant to bring together Walker’s academic program and Landry’s new building.
Not only was Landry-Walker High School the result of the merger, but so was an athletic powerhouse.
Landry-Walker won the Class 5A state football championship in December. The school won the boys state basketball championship earlier this month.
Three hundred thirty miles to the northwest, two Shreveport high schools are in a similar situation with Booker T. Washington and Fair Park high schools proposed to merge.
What happens to a merged BTW and Fair Park athletically remains to be seen.
“I think it has a chance to be exciting, a good deal if people will buy into it,” says Fair Park head football coach Mike Greene, who is expected to have the same position at the new school.
There will be a new Class 4A program in town
Enrollment estimation of a new Fair Park-BTW school is approximately 1,000 students.
In the LHSAA’s reclassification for 2017-18 and 2018-19, the new school would be one of the larger Class 4A schools in the state. The LHSAA’s requirement for Class 4A is enrollment from 669 students to 1,195 students.
Fair Park was already classified as a Class 4A school so it would not affect the new District 1-4A. The new district includes Benton, Bossier, Caddo Magnet, Fair Park, Huntington, Minden, North DeSoto, Northwood and Woodlawn.
The new Fair Park-BTW school would assume Fair Park’s place in the district.
District 1-3A shrinks
While District 1-4A is barely affected, the same can’t be said for District 1-3A.
The loss of Booker T. Washington to the merger and Class 4A would make District 1-3A a three-team district with Green Oaks, Loyola and North Webster. Thus, a team would need to win only two district football games to claim a district championship.
Scheduling becomes an issue for the District 1-3A schools.
“Since BTW is our Week 9 opponent, we found a school with an open Week 9 (Rayville) and have a tentative contract with them,’’ Loyola Principal John LeBlanc said.
If the merger does not take place, Loyola will play BTW on the Week 9 playing date.
LeBlanc said there are plans in boys and girls basketball to play district opponents three times on a rotation during the season. Baseball and softball would also be affected by the small district.
“Is it the best situation? Not at all. But we’ll deal with it,’’ LeBlanc said.
Fair Park-BTW will be better, but may not be a super power
While it would be easy to think the new Fair Park-BTW could be another Landry-Walker, it would be wrong to assume that.
A merged Fair Park-BTW football team would likely have more players and more depth, but neither team had a winning regular season last year with BTW going 4-6 and Fair Park posting a 2-8 record. And no All-City players return for the 2017 season from either team.
Still, last year may have been an aberration.
“The last four years, we would have been pretty good with their kids and our kids,” Greene said.
In boys basketball, Fair Park was a No. 5 seed in Class 4A, but BTW was 36th in Class 3A in the old power ratings. Again, the Fair Park-BTW merged team figures to be improved, but would it have been enough to topple state champion Washington-Marion?
In girls basketball, BTW was 18th in the final power rankings while Fair Park was 40th.
There will be new faces in a new place
This much is certain — the merger means fewer head coaches and more competition among players.
Some moves are already beginning to take place. When Fair Park boys basketball coach Eddie Hamilton opted for the Southwood job, that move opened up the position for the new Fair Park-BTW school.
Greene is expected to hold the same position at the new school.
And as for players, starting positions on their respective teams will come with new competition from within.
The key, though, will be keeping the students from going elsewhere.
“We’ve had eight to 10 kids talk about going to other schools,” Greene said.