By ADAM LAPIERRE
News staff writer
April 15, 2006
The fate of Hood River Valley High School’s 2006-07 athletic year is essentially waiting in limbo for the outcome of mediation between the Oregon Schools Activities Association, the State Board of Education and three school districts.
After the OSAA Executive board voted 30-1 in October to approve a revamped 6-A classification system for Oregon’s high school athletics, school districts from Salem-Keizer, Eugene and Medford filed an appeal to the plan and vowed to take it to the Oregon Court of Appeals if necessary. The schools behind the appeal argue that the redistricting would cause their athletic programs, and their student athletes, undue harm, due in part to increased travel time and expenses and more missed class time.
Students, coaches, parents, teachers and administrators across the state face a shady future today because they are forced to look ahead at two completely different possibilities for seasons which are less than six months away. This leaves many administrators and athletic directors the unfortunate burden of either coming up with two separate plans for scheduling and budgeting or banking on one plan and hoping a compromise is reached soon.
“We knew when we began this process in September 2004 that we couldn’t please every school or school district,” said OSAA Executive Director, Tom Welter. “We believe, however, that the six classification system represents the best effort by professional educators across the state to provide equitable competition for our member schools. The overwhelming majority of our member schools, representing a broad and diverse cross-section of school sizes and geographic locations, are ready to move forward.”
But Oregon’s 287 high schools’ athletic programs can not move forward yet because their fates rest in the mediation planned between parties.
If an agreement can’t be reached between the appealing schools and the OSAA and the case goes to the Oregon Court of Appeals, the possibility exists that the entire six class system could be scrapped and schools would return to the current 4A system.
For Hood River Valley High School, the athletic community is crossing its fingers and hoping the parties can come to an agreement soon because the Eagles are sitting on perhaps the tallest fence in the state.
They will either move back to the region of the current Mt. Hood Conference, which they were moved out if in 2000, or, if the six class system is rejected, they will return to the Intermountain Conference.
According to the OSAA, if mediations do not produce an outcome, the OSAA will face the appealing districts in a hearing scheduled for May 8. Following that tentative date, Hearing Officer Bill Young will make a recommendation to Oregon Superintendent of Instruction Susan Castillo, who will then make a ruling on the issue.
The losing party can then appeal the case to the Oregon Court of Appeals, which could result in a drawn-out process that would potentially leave the issue unsettled in time for the fall season.
If that becomes the case, HRVHS will travel across the IMC for another season. If, however, parties can come to a timely agreement which accommodates the appealing schools and is approved by the remaining districts, the Eagles will return to the conference in which they would very much like to be a part.