Thursday, October 11, 2001
Getting through high school is a long enough drive without unfair complications.
Unfair is one way to describe the redistricting proposal, by the Oregon School Activities Association, with serious implications for Hood River Valley High School.
Long, expensive drives to other schools will dominate the Hood River sports scene to the detriment to the local program, if the plan is approved Monday in Portland.
"Status quo" is a Latin lesson the OSAA should keep in mind Monday when its redistricting committee votes on a proposal to move HRVHS out of the geographically logical Mt. Hood Conference and into the farflung Intermountain League.
HRV should stay in its namesake league.
The Intermountain proposal would lump Hood River with schools in Bend, Redmond, and Crook County schools, along with Pendleton and Hermiston: nice places, but too far away for league play.
This is not just about sports, however. Hood River would face heavy costs to the school district and drastic impacts on the lives of students and their families.
The redistricting proposal represents a threat to Hood River students' very ability to participate in life-affirming activities.
For away games, the farthest drive now for Hood River, to its Portland opponents, is about 90 minutes. Compare that to a minimum two hours -- in good weather, which is hardly a sure thing -- to play its nearest Intermountain rival.
Speaking of rivalries, the Eagles are starting to develop them with schools such as Gresham, Centennial and Central Catholic. Redistricting would also disrupt that.
OSAA has scoured the map searching for one school, any school, to help the Intermountain fulfill an eight-team schedule. Hood River students, coaches and parents should not suffer because the current Intermountain teams lack an eighth team within geographic proximity. Hood River would be made to pay the price to solve the Intermountain's problem.
And look at in reverse: games in Hood River will require added trips for the central and eastern Oregon athletes.
The Redmond area is likely to add a new school within a few years, giving it that eighth opponent, and then Hood River would be odd-team-out.
The OSAA is interested in maintaining balanced schedules throughout all its Class 4A districts, and overall fairness is a goal worth pursuing. But that balance is on paper; Hood River's fate will be on the asphalt, the hundreds of miles of it between here and Prineville.
A shortened array of opponents in the Intermountain is a minor inconvenience compared to the rigors redistricting would impose on Hood River: three-hour same-day return drives, expensive overnight stays, loss of time for sleep and homework, and disrupted family lives.
Further, the smaller sports should not have to suffer from losses of critical numbers -- budgetary and participatory.
Redistricting would cost the district more than $30,000 a year for travel expenses -- and those are just the costs district officials are able to identify now. They will go up once reality hits. The full effects of a 223 percent increase in overall travel time are not yet known.
Representatives from all the Mt. Hood Conference schools have voiced support for keeping HRV where it is, and last week a local effort emerged to form an appeal to OSAA. Kathy Nishimoto of Hood River and Fred Duckwall of Odell drafted a petition outlining the many reasons HRV should remain in MHC, and collected signatures to be turned in to OSAA Friday.
The petition came along at just the right time: if there were to be any chance of swaying OSAA, a strong local voice needed to be heard.
OSAA needs to keep in mind a principle held dear by parents throughout the ages: it is always better when children -- and it is children we are discussing -- can play close to home.