Russ Hickman, athletic director for Naselle Grays River School District, presented his findings in an informational meeting to members of the community on Monday evening in the high school commons. There were coaches, students, parents and staff in attendance.
According to Hickman, the WIAA would like to continue to separate all schools with athletic programs into six classifications, with approximately 17 percent of schools in each. The hope is to create a more level playing field and to provide an equal opportunity for all schools to participate in postseason tournaments. If, for instance, one classification had 100 schools and another only 40, getting to postseason play would be much more difficult for the schools in the former group.
In prior years, the WIAA counted each high school class for an enrollment total, but this year they will only be counting grades 9, 10 and 11. Either way you count it, Hickman said, Naselle remains a 1B school, and is likely to stay that way for some time, based on current class counts at the grade school and middle school.
On October 7, schools around the state of Washington will receive a letter from the WIAA about reclassification for the upcoming school year. In November, enrollment counts will be in and schools will receive a classification. With that information in hand, schools can decide whether to accept their classification or opt up.
Naselle has chosen to opt up in past years, playing as a 2B school. Continuing to do so would allow them to stay in a league that they know and remain an 11-man football team. One disadvantage of opting up is that the Comets may have to face schools with more than twice their own enrollment.
If they decided to accept the 1B classification, said Hickman, they will be playing schools of similar size and they would have a better chance to participate at state. The down side is that they would have to switch to 8-man football.
They could become an independent 1B school, but so many leagues are “all or nothing,” Hickman said. This makes scheduling difficult for a team that wants to remain independent.
“The Columbia Valley league would accept us gladly,” Hickman said. The Columbia Valley league includes two schools in Battle Ground, Three Rivers Christian in Kelso, the Washington School for the Deaf in Vancouver and Pope John Paul in Lacey. However, only the WSD plays 8 man football, just three have cross country teams and none of them have a junior varsity.
And still they must consider their middle school athletes who will also be affected, whatever they decide.
There are more ideas and options for the Naselle Grays River School District to discuss, all with advantages and all rife with challenges. They have until January 7, 2014 to decide.