As the high school sports seasons start this week, the Oregon School Activities Association committee charged with proposing districts for the next four-year time block that begins in one year has started its task.
The Classification and Districting Committee held its introductory meeting by Zoom on Aug. 9 and held its first regular meeting to receive testimony Monday (after press time).
A process that used to take an entire calendar year will be compressed into just a few months this time, with the committee scheduled to make its final recommendation to the OSAA Executive Board on Nov. 22.
Several significant changes to the way OSAA counts enrollment could lead to significant changes as well for schools around the state.
First, starting this year, the figure used to calculate a school’s average daily membership (ADM) will just include grades 9 through 11. In the initial memo to the committee, OSAA Executive Director Peter Weber explained that this change “removes the volatility of senior classes due to early graduation and early college enrollment while also removing consideration for fifth year or extended education courses for super seniors that are ineligible (for sports).”
Using just the freshmen through junior classes will lead to a more consistent representation of students in the schools participating in athletics and activities, Weber explained.
A second change is that school districts that operate separate option or alternative schools that are not full members of OSAA will have to count the students in those schools who live in their districts.
Weber explained that change makes the counting of students more equitable because it counts all high school students living in the district.
The change has a big impact on Coquille, which operates the Winter Lakes High School, and Marshfield, because the Coos Bay School District also has alternative schools.
A third change is that while schools will continue to receive a socio-economic reduction in their total if a large percentage of the students receive free lunch (a 25 percent reduction), schools with a higher percentage of those students now will receive a 40 percent reduction in their calculated number.
A fourth significant change is that the number of students the committee uses will be the average of three years, instead of just the previous year.
“This provides a better representation of a school’s population over time as opposed to a one-year snapshot while decreasing the volatility of major enrollment bumps or dips,” Weber said in the letter.
A notable impact of that three-year calculation is that the average number of students calculated for North Bend (530) is greater than the average for Marshfield (507) even though for the 2020-21 school year, Marshfield’s calculated number of students (525) was bigger than North Bend’s (519).
For the past four years, North Bend has been a Class 5A school and Marshfield a Class 4A school, and if the committee goes straight by the numbers for the next four-year time block that could remain the case even though Marshfield is trending toward being a bigger school.
North Bend was considerably larger the previous two years, leading to the higher average over the three-year period. In the 2018-19 school year, Marshfield’s calculated number of students was 496 while North Bend’s was 530 and in 2019-20 Marshfield was 499 and North Bend was 541.
North Bend remains one of the smallest schools in Class 5A, with its three-year average of 530 only larger than Scappoose (501) among schools in the classification. It also is significantly smaller than every other school in the Midwestern League.
Marshfield, meanwhile, is one of the biggest in Class 4A, though Cottage Grove, a fellow Sky-Em League member, is larger with an average of 520. Cascade (514) and Molalla (518) also are larger than Marshfield, as is Woodburn, which is much bigger (870) but received an exemption to play down to Class 4A for the current time block.
Among the other Sky-Em League schools, Siuslaw of Florence seems a likely candidate to move down to Class 3A. The Vikings’ number of 234 is much smaller than the other league schools and also is smaller than every other Class 4A school.
Among the other South Coast schools, the one most likely to switch a classification is Coquille, almost surely destined to move up to Class 3A based on the numbers.
With the addition of Winter Lakes students, Coquille’s calculated enrollment figure that will be used by the committee is 188 students, much larger than the rest of the Class 2A Sunset Conference and also larger than at least 10 current members of Class 3A.
Coquille was a Class 3A school for the previous time block, in a league with every school more than 100 miles away leading to many long bus trips. At least this time around, there is a chance Coquille would be reunited with former Far West League colleagues Siuslaw, Douglas (in Winston), Sutherlin and South Umpqua (in Myrtle Creek) that are geographically much closer than the closest school in the Mountain Valley Conference the Red Devils were formerly in, Creswell.
To see a schedule of meetings for the committee, as well as the metrics that led to the numbers the committee will use, visit www.osaa.org and find the Classification and Districting committee under the Governance tab at the top of the page.