Four of the five schools invited to join by the Cahokia Conference have agreed to make the leap, leaving Chester as the lone holdout before the school board vote on Thursday.
A few weeks ago, the Cahokia Conference invited Chester and four other schools to join their 13-team conference. The Cahokia contains smaller schools than the Black Diamond Conference, which Chester has been a part of for 10 years.
Roxanna, Okawville, East Alton-Wood River and Sparta have agreed to join the Cahokia Conference; Sparta was the most recent, taking the vote on June 11.
The Chester School Board will meet Thursday, June 18 to decide if the Yellow Jackets will be the fifth team to accept the invitation.
The Chester Unit District 139 administration is recommending a "yes" vote.
Chester High School Athletic Director Jeremy Blechle said joining Cahokia will dramatically cut back on Yellow Jacket travel, which will save the district time and money and limit the stress and fatigue on the student-athletes.
"For some games, our students have to leave school while classes are still in session. Valuable learning time is lost," Blechle said.
"Then you have a very tired group of players after a two-hour one-way bus ride. It also drains an already stressed budget having to travel 1,200 miles in some seasons."
Blechle said moving to the Cahokia means Chester would also re-establish some of its former rivalries with teams like Sparta, Red Bud, Marissa-Coulterville, Dupo, Steeleville, New Athens and Carlyle.
The other teams currently in the Cahokia are Breese Central, Carlyle, Columbia, Dupo, Freeburg, Lebanon, New Athens, Salem, Valmeyer and Wesclin.
There is much speculation as to how the Cahokia Conference will actually shape up if all five teams decide to join to make the Cahokia Conference an 18-team organization. More details will unfold once final decisions are made and Cahokia administrators know what they have to work with.
If Chester decides to switch to the Cahokia, it has been advertised as happening in the 2022-23 season, based on a Black Diamond Conference rule that requires a school give two years' notice. However, if the BDC finds an agreeable replacement school and all the teams agree, a one-year notice is theoretically possible.
"If it is decided that Chester will accept the invitation to join the Cahokia Conference, we will do what's right and fulfill our obligations to the BDC," Blechle said.
Roxanna is currently in the South Central Conference; East Alton-Wood River will leave the Prairie State Conference and Sparta will leave the River-to-River Conference, Mississippi Division. Okawville has been playing as an independent team.
Blechle said the school district has been open about the process, and he's gotten many phone calls about it, all supportive of the move.