First day of Bulldogs football

Bulldog football players practice at North Bend High School on Aug. 14, 2017.

Bethany Baker, The World

Mike Forrester thinks he has a strong case for why North Bend should be allowed to stay in Class 4A when the new four-year time block for Oregon high school sports starts next fall.

The North Bend athletic director just hopes his reasoning doesn’t fall on deaf ears when he travels to Wilsonville on Monday with Superintendent Bill Yester and Principal Bill Lucero to address the Oregon School Activities Association Executive Board.

Here’s hoping he has success.

The final proposal by the OSAA Classification and Districting Committee moves North Bend and three other schools from Class 4A to Class 5A. The Executive Board will vote on the committee’s proposal Monday.

The first proposal in the year-long process of the committee that moved North Bend to Class 5A came out in August. Forrester appealed to the Classification and Districting Committee for a geographic exemption in its final meeting in September, but wasn’t able to convince the committee to grant it.

He will appeal Monday based on the same points, primarily increased travel, lost class time and an extreme increase in expenses for the school district.

In the Class 5A Midwestern League, North Bend would face teams in the Eugene and Medford areas. The average trip for league games would be 275 miles. Just for the team sports — volleyball, football, soccer, basketball, baseball and softball, North Bend’s transportation costs will increase by $40,000, and that’s counting on taking the small buses driven by the coaches for most of the trips.

In addition, the lost class time will be extreme.

Students who compete in sports all three seasons of the school year could go from 90 missed hours of class time to more than 250. And that’s not to speak of the time out of the classroom for teachers who also are coaches.

Generally, substitutes aren’t trained to teach at the same level as teachers, Forrester said.

“The kids aren’t getting as good an education,” he said.

And there’s the cost of all those substitute teachers, as well.

Forrester hopes North Bend will be assigned to the Class 4A Sky-Em League, which also is where Marshfield is slated to be starting next fall, along with Cottage Grove, Marist, Junction City and two of the smallest schools in the classification, Elmira and Siuslaw.

That still would be greater travel than North Bend has now, but nothing like what the Bulldogs would be facing with trips over the four passes on Interstate-5 to Ashland, Eagle Point and Crater in the Medford area, trips that would be very long during the winter months.

Forrester pointed out that the change to the Classification and Districting Committee pointed out four main areas to consider: safety of students and spectators (travel), minimizing lost instructional time, minimizing travel expenses to the school district, and school enrollment data. North Bend will see its enrollment rise slightly this year and then it is projected to start dropping.

“There are four key deals to decide classification,” he said. “This fails on all four.”

Forrester has plenty of support, including letters from all the schools in the proposed Midwestern League.

Marshfield athletic director Greg Mulkey will speak in favor of North Bend staying in Class 4A as well.

“It makes no sense to us to have a school so close in size to us less than five miles away not be in the same classification,” Coos Bay School District Superintendent Bryan Trendell said.

According to the OSAA enrollment formula, which includes actual enrollment with a multiplier based on the percentage of students who receive free and reduced lunch, North Bend had 702 students last year and Marshfield 650. The Coos Bay School District also has high school-aged students in the Harding Learning Center including 58 in Destinations Academy that are not included in OSAA’s figures for Marshfield since they are not part of the high school. Students who compete for a school who are not part of a high school — either from charter schools or who are home schooled — are counted by OSAA. 

In the 2015-16 school year, Marshfield’s enrollment was closer to North Bend’s total for last year, with an adjusted number of 682 students.

Marshfield’s enrollment should bottom out this year and then start to increase, getting back up to about that level in four years, Trendell said.

Forrester and Mulkey both have said repeatedly that it’s better for the Bay Area when North Bend and Marshfield are in the same league.

Unfortunately, history says the Executive Board will most likely approve the committee’s final proposal.

But North Bend will at least put up a fight.

“We are going to go hope for the best,” Forrester said. “I think we have a really good argument.”

We’ll find out Monday if the Executive Board agrees with that logic.