ANACONDA — Butte Central and Anaconda will not co-op for any sports during the 2019-20 school year.

On Wednesday night the Anaconda school board voted 5-1 against an initiative that would have set in motion a cooperative agreement between Anaconda and Butte Central. Primarily for football, golf and wrestling also might have combined if the agreement had passed.

“I hate that we had to stir the pot and make people fight,” said school board chair Jaime Valentini following the meeting. “If this was the best result, so be it. The kids are going to rally, the parents are going to support, the administration is happy, the coaches feel excited.

“If this is what it takes, it’s strange, but it’s good.”

Discussion on the issue began publicly on Jan. 8, as the Anaconda school board held a meeting with the potential co-op on the docket. There was sizable support for the co-op then, and a second meeting was called for.

Between the meetings, another call to Anaconda football players was made to judge their support for the potential merger. Nearly 50 students showed up at the meeting, with just around 25 percent of those attending in favor, according to Anaconda head football coach Jesse Robins.

In one of the most poignant moments of the meeting, Anaconda junior Dylan Smith again spoke to the school board after saying he was in favor of the co-op on Jan. 8. Smith said after talking to his teammates he changed his mind and was now against the merger.

He seemed to still remain a bit skeptical as to how many of his classmates were going to come out for football, but said he trusted them and had faith they would follow through.

“We’ve got to get everyone to understand what it means to be a Copperhead, because I feel like we’ve lost that over the past couple years,” Smith said. “I definitely think it’s going to come back.”

The low level of support for the co-op was evident during Wednesday’s meeting as few public comments expressed interest in the co-op. Some support on the school board remained, as the lone vote for — Blake Hempstead — was adamant this is the future that Anaconda is headed for.

“I just think the trending numbers suggest that things are trending downward and I really support our kids that stepped up, came to the meeting and professed they would show up and be there for their classmates and teammates,” Hempstead said. “I liken it to school finance. You can’t build your rubric or data on perspective numbers.

“You have to look at the trend and the trend is downward for us. That’s why I voted that way.”

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Anaconda school board member Blake Hempstead was the lone board member to vote in favor of a football co-op between Anaconda and Butte Central high schools. The measure failed 5-1 Wednesday night.

The main underlying note from the meeting, however, was the rallying of support for the school. Numerous parents and students expressed there were things in Anaconda’s community that needed to be fixed, especially in relation to getting kids to go out for sports.

There’s still a worry that a significantly smaller number than the 48 that showed interest in football will actually be there on day one, much less by the end of the season. Despite having the largest student body population in Class B, participation numbers have trended down over the past few years, which will continue to have an effect on how competitive the teams will be.

The conversation has certainly a chance to be reignited in the future, but for the time being Anaconda will stay the Copperheads.

Jordan Hansen covers prep and Frontier Conference sports for the Montana Standard. Shoot him an email at Jordan.Hansen@406mtsports.com or give him a shout on Twitter @jordyhansen.

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