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Lee: Committee considers class changes

Some consider the classification system in Washington broken.

I contend there’s at least one too many classifications, but that’s not an argument that will gain any traction in these parts – especially in the B ranks.

A committee was formed to examine reclassification and has been charged to come up with a referendum for the spring Rep Assembly.

Greater Spokane League secretary and District 8 WIAA representative Herb Rotchford is on the committee, which met last month to sharpen its focus.

“We want a more stable system that provides a better chance at competitive equity and balance,” Rotchford said.

One of the ideas that’s been embraced by the committee is changing from the present two-year classification cycle to a four-year cycle, Rotchford said. The new system would allow schools that suffer sizable enrollment changes within the four years to appeal to drop down after two years. It would also mean less juggling in leagues statewide.

Another thing the committee is looking at is counting just on-site students. No longer would alternative school students be included in the enrollment count for classification. That could allow schools hovering near the bottom of a classification to bump down a class.

Rotchford said the committee also would like to move away from using a blanket percentage for deciding the enrollment ranges for the classifications. But the committee believes one four-year cycle needs to run its course before adopting a new method for deciding classification ranges.

Ideally, each of the six classifications should include about 64 schools – or roughly 17 percent of the total schools in the state. Because schools are allowed to opt up to a bigger classification, those numbers are skewed.

Rotchford said part of the committee’s proposal could include which grades are counted. The present system counts sophomores through seniors. The new format would count ninth graders through juniors.

“By the time a new cycle kicks in, the seniors who were counted have graduated,” Rotchford said. “In some cases the departing senior classes were bigger than the incoming ninth graders. And sometimes a school might have more ninth graders coming in than seniors graduating.”

Rotchford said other recommendations the committee is considering are allowing schools to opt up for one sport and stay in the classification where their enrollment puts them in the other sports, and having fewer classes in some sports. For example, in the biggest team sports, keep six classes for football, boys and girls basketball, volleyball and track. But in boys and girls soccer, wrestling, baseball and softball the classifications could be trimmed to four. Cross country, golf, tennis and swimming could have three classes. And one class could be offered for girls wrestling and gymnastics.

“We’re trying to think outside the box,” he said. “We don’t have the same number of schools participating in all of the sports.”

The committee believes reducing classifications in some sports will save schools money in travels costs and make state tournaments more competitive, Rotchford said.

“Right now we have too many state tournaments that are watered down, particularly among the smaller schools,” Rotchford said. “We want to make state mean something.”

Rotchford said the committee must have the proposed referendum done in December so it can be presented to the WIAA board and approved in January for the March coalition.

If approved, the four-year cycle with other alterations would go into effect in the 2014-15 school year.

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