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June 15th, 2005 Cliff Pfenning | News Stories
 

A BITTER PIL

Portland Interscholastic League fuming over proposed athletics changes.

     
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A plan to re-align Oregon high schools' sports classifications has Portland schools firing back that the changes don't pay enough attention to socioeconomic differences.

The state association that governs prep sports aims to improve competition by matching schools based on enrollment, expanding the state's four classifications into six. Schools with more than 900 students now fall into the largest classification, Class 4A. The new Class 6A would start at 1,500 students.

"We represent 300 schools, and not everyone is going to be happy with everything,'' says Brad Garrett, the Oregon School Activities Association's assistant executive director.

Count the state's larger schools, including those in the Portland Interscholastic League, among the unhappy as the OSAA board prepares to vote on the changes this fall.

The PIL schools object to new leagues and the loss of longtime rivalries. The PIL would go from 10 schools to eight, as larger Grant and Wilson would join a new 6A district with suburban schools such as Westview, Southridge and Beaverton.

And Greg Ross, the PIL athletic director, says the new plan doesn't really help smaller schools such as Marshall, Jefferson or Roosevelt, either.

The OSAA's use of enrollment as the sole criterion raises hackles because it assumes a student at one school is equal to a student at another. But that's rarely true in athletics because team camps and year-round seasons all cost big bucks and make wealthier schools more equal than others.

The OSAA might have used lunch-subsidy data to match schools with comparable wallets, says Tim Biamont, athletic director at Marshall High, which has 60 percent of its students on free and reduced-price lunches. A similarly sized but wealthier school like Lakeridge has fewer than 5 percent of its students in that category.

Garrett says the OSAA classification committee couldn't find a way for socioeconomic status to work.

 
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