RENTON - The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) Representative Assembly is going to vote on a proposal that would determine enrollment classifications (4A, 3A and so forth) by percentage of schools in the state instead of by enrollment counts. That vote will be held at the April 25 meeting of that body.

If adopted, the new classification system would take effect in the 2004-05 school year. The proposal is recommended by the WIAA executive board, which means it has a good chance of passing.

However, a second proposal, with different percentages of schools in each class, is also on the agenda and the conflicting amendments make the passage of either amendment less than a sure thing.

In a telephone interview, Jim Meyerhoff of the WIAA office, stated, "A second amendment, proposed by a 1A league from the east side of the state, proposes that the classifications be divided with 24 percent of the schools as "B" schools (92 schools), with the other four classifications each having 19 percent of the schools (73 schools) in each class."

Under the initial proposal, the smallest 28 percent of the schools (109 schools) would be in the "B" classification and 18 percent of the remaining schools (69 schools) would go into each of the 1A, 2A, 3A and 4A classifications. Schools could "opt up" to a higher classification if they wished.

Gary Flood, athletic director at Ilwaco High School, stated, "The proposal that sets the size of classes at 28 percent for the "B" schools and 18 percent of the schools for each of the other classes works well for us. It would place us solidly in the 1A class. I voted for the initial proposal."

Presently, enrollment in grades 10 through 12 determines classification: 0-150 (B), 151-300 (1A), 301-600 (2A), 601-1,200 (3A) and 1,201 and higher (4A). The result is that some classifications are much bigger than others - 4A (91 schools), 3A (77), 2A (50), 1A (61) and B (110).

The new classification system would place 109 schools in class "B," about what there are now in that classification. However, some of the numbers of schools in other classes could change markedly with approximately 69 schools in each of the other four classes.

The class 1A schools would include those 69 schools which currently have an enrollment of approximately 150 to 350 students. Schools such as Castle Rock, White Salmon, Stevenson, and Ilwaco would be among those schools qualifying to be 1A in size. Some of those schools, Castle Rock for example, could be "on the bubble" between 1A and 2A in classification.

In the two local high school areas, Naselle and Ilwaco, served by the Chinook Observer, there will be little, if any, change for the Naselle High School activity programs. Naselle, with its projected enrollment of 82 students for the 2002-04 classification years, would continue to fall solidly into the middle of the Class B category, if either amendment passes.

However, there could be a significant change for the Ilwaco High School activity programs. Ilwaco could, again, fall into the 1A class for competition with its projected enrollment of 302 students for the 2002-04 classification years. The present count, which shows Ilwaco to be one of the smallest 2A schools would place it "down the ladder" several places with approximately nine or 10 schools above it in the newly configured 1A class, if the initial proposal passes.

That is not true, however, if the second proposal passes. Ilwaco would be in about the same class where they currently are. That amendment would place them near the bottom of the 2A class in size.

Craig Smith, in a column entitled Sideline Smitty in the Feb. 14, 2003 Seattle Times, states, "Arguments for the proposals are: 1) The number of schools in each classification would be more balanced, giving all schools an equal chance for post season play; 2) The elimination of enrollment classifications would reduce the temptation to manipulate enrollment counts; 3) With more schools in 1A and 2A classifications, some current eight-team tournaments could expand to 16-team events.

"If adopted, one likely consequence could be the creation of more multi-classification leagues. That could lead to some interesting decisions. For example, the Seattle School District would have to decide whether it wanted to withdraw the four current 4A Seattle schools from the KingCo Conference and reinstate them in the 3A Metro League," Smith concludes.

Meyerhoff gave the opinion that one or both of the amendments could be considered at the April 25 Representative Assembly. He felt that discussion prior to the vote may produce some changes in the proposal(s) which will be voted upon.

The proposals to change the method of classification to a percentage of the schools in the state is not being met with unbridled approval. The Pacific League of "B" schools, which includes Naselle, is one of those leagues which is not looking favorably at either proposal.

Tom Sanchez of South Bend, the President of the (Class B) Pacific League, issued the following statement:

• Pacific League voted "no" on both Amendment 12 and 13. Our rationale had four parts:

• We had originally proposed keeping the cap for "B" schools at 150 and using percentages for the rest of the classifications, but that was never really considered by the Executive Board;

• The floating cap created by percentages has the potential to force schools to move from one classification to the next one even if their enrollment drops (ex. The creation of three private schools whose enrollments are less than 100 would force the top three "B" schools in enrollment to move to the A classification);

• The clause allowing for schools to opt up will not keep the classifications "equal in number;"

• When we realigned the classifications about eight years ago, the big selling point is that one school would not be forced to play another whose enrollment is more than twice its size; this amendment would nullify that rationale.

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