Changes in classification could mean big changes for KHS

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There may be some change coming down the road when it comes to the classifications for Idaho school sports.

A new proposal that would change the way the schools are currently divided was proposed. Instead of the division being based solely by their student enrollment, they Idaho High School Activities Association (IHSAA) is exploring the possibility of a system that takes into account the socio-economic status and competitive history at each school.

According to IHSAA Executive Director Ty Jones, the board passed the measure 10-3 on June 14 at the board of directors meeting to allow the idea to be further researched.

All measures must pass the board twice before taking effect and the next board meeting is Aug. 2, when the board can finalize the proposal and allow it to take effect starting in the 2018-19 school year.

The proposal, brought to the board by Caldwell High Athletic Director Josh Hegstad, is similar to the way Oregon divides its schools.

Instead of using just the number of enrolled students, the schools would deduct 25 percent of their students who get free or reduced lunch. For example, if a school has 400 students and 50 percent (200) get free or reduced lunch, it could deduct 50 students from 400 for an adjusted enrollment of 350.

Hegstad explained schools with high free or reduced lunch numbers face obstacles other schools don’t, such as higher dropout rates, fewer athletes, more special education students, and reduced opportunities for offseason camps and training.

In Shoshone County the numbers would need to be looked at, but among the three schools there is a sense of concern with one of them that the change could reshape the landscape of how they have competed over the years.

Kellogg High School had an enrollment of 337 with 136 students receiving free and reduced lunch.

Twenty-five percent of that 136 is 34, dropping KHS’ enrollment to 303.

KHS is currently classified as a 3A school, but the cutoff between 3A and 2A is 320.

Kellogg would be moving down a classification.

Both Wallace and Mullan are fairly safe from having any sort of change in classification as Wallace currently sits on the fringe of being 1A Division I and moving up to 2A.

Any sort of mild change in their enrollment total would put them squarely in the thick of the other 1A Division I schools.

Mullan is already in the smallest classification (1A Division II) and wouldn’t change at all.

Kellogg superintendent Woody Woodford spoke on the potential change and how the Wildcats may have no choice, but then the district would face some new challenges.

“It boils down to resources,” Woodford said. “There is a delicate balance here and we compete very well in the 3A classification, but this isn’t a choice we get to make.”

The financial ramifications could be the most frustrating though.

With the proposed change Kellogg, along with (probably) Priest River-Lamanna High School, and Coeur d’Alene Charter could move into a league with St. Maries (who moved from 3A to 2A five years ago), Grangeville, and Orofino.

Whereas right now Kellogg’s longest road trip for a league contest is a 226 round trip to Bonners Ferry, the trip to Grangeville would be over 400 miles round trip.

“If they mess around with the classification rules too much we could be competing with more compatible teams, but the travel costs could kill us,” Woodford said.

The decision won’t come until Aug. 2, but parents, athletes, and school administrators should begin preparing for a significant change.

Current school classifications can be found at www.ihsaa.org.

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