We’ve reached the end of the current 4-year classification cycle in Washington.
That means enrollment numbers submitted last spring and this fall will determine the state’s six classes for the next four years.
The enrollment counts will be based on 9th through 11th graders and not 10th through 12th graders as done previously. This is a good change because it doesn’t make sense to base a school’s classification partially on a senior class that won’t be around the following year.
In another change, off-site alternative students won’t be in enrollment counts. In some cases this should help smaller schools land where they belong. The argument is why should schools count students who don’t play sports.
The first two years of the new classification cycle allows the WIAA the opportunity to re-balance the six different classes. The hope is each class will have 66 schools.
For the final two years of the four-year process, schools have an opportunity to move up or down depending on either growth or loss of enrollment.
That’s when the classes many times get out of balance, assistant superintendent John Miller said.
He pointed out that 1A has 74 schools and 2B has only 48. 1B has 73.
“What happened two years ago is the bigger 2B schools gained enrollment while the smaller 2B schools saw their enrollments go down,” Miller said.
So the WIAA will gather fall enrollments from each school in November and couple those with enrollments taken last spring.
After that the WIAA will place the first 66 schools in 4A, the next 66 in 3A and so forth all the way down to 1B. Schools will have until Jan. 7 to opt up to a bigger classification.
What has happened in recent years is the 3A ranks changes dramatically at this point because quite a few smaller schools opt up.
At the beginning of the last four-year cycle, for example, three smaller schools opted up to 4A and about 23 smaller schools opted to move into 3A.
So any school that opts up a class automatically goes to the top of that classification’s list. So if 25 opt up to 3A, for example, WIAA officials would set the 3A class by counting out the next 40 schools with qualifying enrollment for 3A. Then the smallest school on that list sets the bottom line and the next school starts the 2A list – unless, of course, there are opt ups that move to the top of the 2A list.
The WIAA has studied what other states across the country do regarding dividing schools into classifications.
“What we’ve discovered is no two states do classification the same way,” Miller said. “All of us are different. It’s not an exact science. A lot of factors come into play.”
You may have been to a high school football game this fall and swore the referees enforced the pass interference rule incorrectly.
That’s the most significant rule change for this year. To some it makes sense, to others it doesn’t.
In the past, when a defense was called for PI, it would be penalized 15 yards and the offense would be given a first down.
This year it’s not automatic. Say the offense is facing a third-and-20 and the defense is called for PI. The defense would be penalized 15 yards but it would be third down over with the offense needing 5 yards to extend its possession.
If the offense, in the past, was called for PI, it would lose a down. This year it would be penalized 15 yards but get the down over.
Some abuses could occur. For example, if an offense is inside the red zone and was facing a third-and-10 from the 16, the defense could intentionally commit PI and the offense would only gain eight yards on the penalty because it would be halve the distance to the goal.