Fort Dale board approves 2026 move to AHSAA

Published 10:48 am Tuesday, October 10, 2023

The Fort Dale Academy board of directors reached a unanimous decision on Sept. 27, a decision aimed at fostering peace and unity within the school’s family network.

The board, which had approved an application on Aug. 1 to join the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) for the 2024-2026 athletics cycle, reached a 15-0 decision Wednesday to withdraw the previous application and to submit an application for the 2026-2028 classification cycle.

Caleb Gardner, the board’s chairman, released a statement Wednesday announcing the decision as one intended to maintain cohesion within the Fort Dale community.

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“Maintaining unity within our Fort Dale community is of the utmost importance,” Gardner said. “My hope, and our hope as the Fort Dale Academy Board of Directors, is that our spirit of cooperation and demonstration of humility on this potentially divisive issue will spread throughout the broader Fort Dale family, fostering peace and unity.”

The decision came after thorough research by the board, whose members were initially, but ultimately realized a compromise was vital to holding the school together Gardner said. 

“Please understand that this is a complex issue with many variables and a few unknowns, but each board member voted with the unified goal of fulfilling our school’s mission,” he wrote.

Both the Alabama Independent School Association (AISA) and the AHSAA reclassify members every two years. Initially, the board approved an application to join AHSAA to keep its options open while researching all factors involved in a move from the AISA to the AHSAA.

Fort Dale Head Master David Sikes said the decision to postpone the move was made to give more time for explaining the change and fielding questions from the school’s families.

“The board felt that the timing would be better [later] than it is now,” Sikes said. “It would give us time to inform our people, to answer questions, and let our families feel more at ease about [the move].”

The statement described the school’s mission as one focused on preparing students for college and careers in an environment that is academically vigorous, nurturing, safe, and morally, socially, and emotionally supportive. Athletics take a secondary, yet important role in developing character, toughness, and key interpersonal skills among students, Gardner explained.

Sikes said the move will impact only athletics, expanding student-athletes opportunities. The school will continue its academic association with the AISA.

“[The move] just deals with athletics, not academics,” Sikes said. “It gives us opportunities to play some local schools we currently can’t play. It opens up more sports with better opportunities for different sports, such as soccer and tennis.”
Gardner’s statement, addressed to Fort Dale families, urged unity and support through the months ahead.

“If we are to succeed at any level of competition in any association, we must stick together!” Gardner wrote. “Your input, thoughts, and prayers have been much appreciated throughout these last few months and will continue to be a vital key to successfully navigating the days ahead.”