RENTON – Two amendments affecting school classifications were approved Jan. 28 by the Washington Interscholas-tic Activities Association Representative Assembly.
The amendments, which start with the 2020-21 school year, were passed by the 53-member assembly composed mostly of athletic directors from around the state.
There was little response by area ADs to having a hard count for classifications, but there were mixed reviews on the second amendment that could reduce a school’s enrollment based on a poverty measure.
“The gap between the haves and have-nots is getting wider,” said John Miller, WIAA assistant executive director. “It gets to the point where it’s impossible to rebound because you just can’t win.”
A couple ADs spoke off the record, preferring to wait for a consensus response after the District 6 ADs meet today, Feb. 6.
One amendment will create a hard count for six classification levels.
The amendment will have no bearing on a school’s choice to opt up in classification.
New enrollment parameters starting the fall of 2020 for grades 9-11 will be:
1B - 1-104
2B - 105-224
1A - 225-449
2A - 450-899
3A - 900-1,299
4A - 1,300-plus
The current classification levels are:
1B - 26-82.99, 64 schools
2B - 83-214.49, 60 schools
1A - 214.50-461.24, 65 schools
2A - 461-971.71, 65 schools
3A - 971.72-1,343.28, 66 schools
4A - 1,343.29-plus, 64 schools
Area schools and enrollment numbers used for the 2016-20 enrollment ranges include:
Lake Roosevelt, 153.63
Liberty Bell, 129.63
Mansfield, at 19.13, is not counted.
Okanogan could be affected by both amendments.
The Bulldogs, assuming the same 215 count as from four years ago, would fall 10 students short of the new hard number for 1A of 225.
Waterville could fall to 1B, although if its adds Mansfield, the total enrollment comes close to the 2B level. The two schools’ athletes already play together.
Depending on how many schools land at each classification, the WIAA assembly could change the size either up or down for some state tournaments.
“Brewster will not be affected by either of these two amendments passing,” Brewster AD Greg Austin said. “Amend-ment No. 1 will keep us in the 2B classification. It could have an effect, depending on the number of schools in each classification, on the number of schools making the state tournament. Tournaments could be adjusted down to eight or possibly up to 32 (teams).
“Amendment No. 2 was changed at the last minute, before the vote, and excluded the 1B and 2B.”
“Pateros will stay where they are at,” said Pateros AD Marcus Stennes.
“Based on our early projections, Manson will most likely stay 2B,” said Manson AD Eric Sivertson.
The second amendment affects only 1A to 4A schools, which in Okanogan Country include Okanogan and Omak.
The amended will allow schools to adjust enrollment downward based on the percentage of free and reduced lunch data as reported to the Office of State Superintendent of Public Instruction.
A school with a free and reduced lunch rate greater than the statewide average of 43 percent will have its enroll-ment reduced for each percentage point that it exceeds the statewide average.
The maximum a school’s enrollment can be adjusted will be capped at 40 percent. Schools will be allowed to move down only one classification.
“Given our projected enrollment and our free/reduced percentage, it appears that Omak will continue to remain in the 1A classification,” said Omak AD Joe LaGrou.
“Historically, Okanogan has been above the state free and reduced lunch average,” Okanogan AD Kevin Daling said. “I am not sure where we were this year.”
If Okanogan qualified at more than 43 percent, its enrollment could be reduced. The school could still opt up to 1A.
“Our coaches and student athletes will work hard and compete to the best of their abilities regardless of where we are classified,” Daling said.
How the amendments affect Tonasket is not clear.
“The majority of Tonasket coaches wanted the socioeconomical amendment to pass,” said Tonasket athletic director Mark Milner. “They are pleased with this.”
Milner said the Tigers, which are in 2B now, could exceed the 225 hard number for 1A.
But the way the second amendment is worded, it applies only to schools in 1A to 4A. Could it apply to a school moving up from 2B to 1A?
“We are close to more than 225 students,” said Milner. “If we are over 225, then we can take the socioeconomical factor and remain in 2B.”
A one-child household with an annual income of $15,782 or less qualifies for free lunches. For each additional child, the income level to qualify goes up by $5,616, according to 2018-19 USDA Child Nutrition Program Income Guide-lines.
To qualify for reduced-cost lunches, a one-child household must earn $22,459 or less. For each additional child, the income level to qualify goes up by $7,992.
The socioeconomic amendment is aimed at leveling the state playing field under the premise that wealthier schools, which have fewer than average free or reduced lunches, have an advantage in sports.
A Seattle Times story said over the past decade, four out of every five public schools winning a state title fell below the 43 percent average.
“The average for championship teams was 30 percent — 13 points below the state average,” said the Times. “Statewide, almost all high school championships are won by students at wealthier, whiter schools. And the barriers to competition are increasing at ever earlier ages for low-income communities.”
The amendments come as schools start recording enrollment (Jan. 1 through May 1, Oct. 1 and twice counting on Nov. 1) for the 2020 classifications.
Rainier Beach used as example
An example by the Times was Rainier Beach High School, where the median income is $34,459 according to the lat-est census data and less than half of the average Seattle household.
People of color make up three-quarters of the population compared to one third citywide, said the Times.
The percentage of all of Rainier Beach’s 736 students who qualify for free or reduced-cost lunches is 69.8 percent, which is 26 percent above the state average.
The Vikings opted up to 3A despite an enrollment of 491.11, which qualifies for 2A.
The new socioeconomic amendment would reduce the enrollment by 26 percent to about 363, which would put Rainier Beach in 1A (225-449).
As of Friday, the Vikings were ranked by MaxPreps at No. 6 among all basketball teams in the state.
WIAA isn’t the first state association to try a socioeconomic factor. Minnesota, Ohio and Oregon have tried similar methods.
“It’s working in those states,” said soon-to-retire WIAA Executive Director Mike Colbrese prior to the vote.