October 29, 2005
After 13 months of discussion, meetings, public testimony and debate, the OSAA Delegate Assembly voted this week, by a count of 30 to one, to approve the OSAA Classification and District Committee’s recommendations to divide Oregon’s schools into six classifications. The decision means big changes for Hood River Valley High School (HRVHS) athletics, changes that will go into effect at the beginning of next school year and last for at least four years.
HRVHS will essentially return to the former Mt. Hood Conference (MHC), in what will be called 6A District 3. Schools in the new conference will be David Douglas, Reynolds, Gresham, Barlow, Centennial, Sandy, Hood River, St. Mary’s and Central Catholic. With the exception of St. Mary’s, the district will be the same as it was four years ago before Hood River was moved into the Intermountain Conference (IMC).
The Classification and Districting Committee originally recommended that HRVHS be placed into what will be 5A District 6, which is the current Intermountain Conference with Redmond High School moving out and Madras High School moving in.
Earlier this month, HRVHS administrators had a difficult decision to make. Their options were to accept the Districting Committee’s recommendations to place Hood River in 5A District 6, appeal to the committee and request placement in another 5A district closer to home, or opt up to 6A District 6 (a request OSAA could not deny).
A letter written by Hood River County superintendent Pat Evenson-Brady, and school district Board of Directors Chair Jan Veldhuisen Virk to the OSAA Districting Committee pleaded that HRVHS be moved to 5A District 2, which is in the Portland region. The letter requested that if the committee will not approve that move, than HRVHS chooses to opt up to the 6A level.
The committee did not approve the recommendation. Therefore the request for HRVHS to opt up was granted. According to HRVHS Athletic Director Phil Vesel, the committee did not give reasons as to why they would not move Hood River into 5A District 6.
“Our school district is excited about the opportunity to return to the Mount Hood Conference,” Vesel said. “I know there is some concern about competing at the 6A level, but the Intermountain Conference and the Mount Hood Conference are equitable in regards to competition. In the last couple years, IMC athletic teams have fared better at the play-off level than MHC teams. HRVHS was competitive in many sports before we left the MHC; wrestling won a league title and soccer, football and softball were all play-off level teams.”
Sandy, St. Mary’s and Central Catholic high schools made similar decisions, opting up to 6A District 3 from their recommendations to be placed in 5A districts.
At the foundation of Hood River’s decision to opt up was the fact that the move to the IMC four years ago had drastic negative effects the school’s loss of class time, travel costs, travel times, parent participation, coaching vacancies and safety risks. According to Vesel, the choice to opt up was made based on the decision that moving to a conference closer to home, even if it means playing bigger schools, is what is best for athletes, coaches, parents, teachers and the school as a whole.
“We are very pleased,” said Evenson-Brady. “This has been a long and windy road for Hood River Valley High School since we were moved from the IMC.”
According to Evenson-Brady, next year’s changes will save about $50,000 a year in travel costs and about 130 hours a year (for three-sport athletes) in lost class time.
The statewide redistricting was a change necessary to restore balance state wide, as well as within individual leagues. The committee made changes based on the following criteria: improve competitive balance within leagues, minimize travel and expense for schools, and maintain current league alignments whenever possible. Currently, schools with more than 2,000 students are in the same classification as schools with 900 students. And, in Hood River’s case, some schools are under serious academic and financial pressure due to traveling costs and distances within their districts.
“We knew it wasn’t a perfect answer,” said Committee Chairman Randy Schild. “But I think a majority of the people around the state are happy.”