IHSAA votes down classification proposal change

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The Idaho High School Activities Association voted to not move forward with a new classification proposal that takes into account free and reduced lunch numbers for member schools during its meeting on Wednesday morning.

The proposal would’ve changed the way the schools are currently divided. Instead of the division being based solely by their student enrollment, the Idaho High School Activities Association (IHSAA) was 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 originally passed the measure 10-3 on June 14, at the board of directors meeting which allowed the idea to be further researched.

All measures are required to pass the board twice before taking effect and would’ve taken effect at the beginning of 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 be able to deduct 25 percent of their students who get free or reduced lunch from their overall population when determining classification placement.

For example, if a school had 400 students and 50 percent (200) get free or reduced lunch, it could deduct 50 students from 400 for an adjusted enrollment of 350.

In Shoshone County, Kellogg High School stood to be the only school locally which would have changed in classification.

Kellogg High School had an enrollment of 337 with 136 students receiving free and reduced lunch during the 2016-17 school year.

Twenty-five percent of that 136 is 34 and subtracting that number from 337 would drop KHS’s enrollment down to 303.

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

Kellogg would have had to move down a classification.

Kellogg superintendent Woody Woodford was nervous about the potential change, but acknowledged that he was at the mercy of the IHSAA board of directors.

“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.”

Following Wednesday’s decision, Woodford reiterated his point, but also recognized that with the declining numbers it may only be a matter of time before Kellogg has to move down anyway.

“Even if they leave everything the same and our numbers continue to decline we won’t have much choice,” Woodford said. “We compete well in 3A and we would compete well in 2A, but the travel would put a big burden on the school district financially. Furthermore, it would also make it difficult to keep students in the classroom when they are being forced to travel like they would if they were going to Grangeville or Orofino. When would they get the rest they need to compete or be capable students?”

Instead, the current classification system will remain with a competitive equity form in place for schools who consistently struggle in sports.

Schools will be able to petition on an individual basis that would be heard by the IHSAA board of directors if they feel that they are facing competitive disadvantages.

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