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WIAA to consider reclassifying schools based on free and reduced lunch levels

SPOKANE, Wash. - The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association will be considering two new amendments on Monday that would potentially re-classify schools based on their levels of poverty.

The first amendment would set hard line population levels for each classification, while the second would allow for population adjustments based on poverty. The measure of the rate of poverty would be through percentage of free and reduced lunches each school serves, over the state average. The current state average is 43 percent.

Currently, schools are classified solely on population, with the smaller schools in going into the 1B, 2B, and 1A classifications, with the larger schools going into 1A, 2A, 3A. The largest schools are 4A.

If passed, schools with above average free and reduced lunch rates would be able to drop their population based on the amount over they were.

"Schools in poverty at a huge disadvantage in terms of being competitive at the level they would like to be," said Herb Rotchford, the WIAA District 8, Greater Spokane League Director. "The disparity between the Haves and Have-nots, is continuing to grow and so its time for us to take a look at the process of classifying schools."

He notes that students at more affluent schools are likely to have had more opportunities to play club sports, whereas students at high poverty schools likely didn't.

"We see the highest visibility of inequity in football, girls basketball, volleyball and boys and girls soccer," he said. "All of those are club sports."

If the amendments pass, he says likely Rogers and North Central High School in the Greater Spokane League would be the two schools dropped down a classification, from 3A to 2A.

"I don't think its going to hurt anything," said David Hall, Athletic Director at North Central. "I think its going to give us equal opportunity."

Currently, North Central has a 53 percent free and reduced lunch rate. Rogers has a 78 percent free and reduced lunch rate. That compares with Lewis and Clark with 35 percent and Ferris with 40 percent.

Hall says at North Central, the divide is more apparent when it comes to football, while their other programs are competitive where they are currently.

"Football is a numbers game," he said. "Unfortunately, we aren't getting the numbers we need to sustain three quality teams at North Central. We are currently at the bottom of the 3A schools and its tough for us to compete."

Last year the school won one out of ten games.

He says he sees many athletes who are playing football for the first time when they hit 9th grade, compared to other schools that might have had athletes with more experience prior to high school. He attributes the difference to the financial burden of starting earlier.

Later in the year the WIAA may consider an amendment which would allow schools to drop only their football teams into lower classifications, and keep other sports at a higher level. If the amendments pass, the schools could still opt up classifications, as Gonzaga Prep does.

At the end of the day, Rotchford says its about making the high school athletic experience more fun and more rewarding.

"Right now, that's not happening," he said. "We have schools that because of poverty aren't going to be successful or competitive and we can't do that to kids."


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