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If Coupeville moves down from 1A to 2B, only one of these athletes, freshman Xavier Murdy (right), could still be playing when it happens. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Change may be coming, but we’ll have to wait a bit for its full impact to hit.

When the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association meets Jan. 28 for its winter coalition, the group’s 53-member┬áRepresentative Assembly will vote on two amendments which could radically alter how schools are classified for sports competition.

Rule 4.2.0 will “establish hard line numbers for high school classifications” while rule 4.3.0 “adjusts enrollment figures based upon percentage of free and reduced lunches.”

A 60% “yes” vote is needed to pass, and all indications are both amendments will easily clear that threshold.

If that happens, it could be huge for Coupeville High School. As one of the smallest 1A schools in the state, CHS could likely move down to 2B, where it resided for many decades.

But, and this is important, the WIAA confirmed this week that any changes to the classification system will not take effect until the 2020-2021 school year.

What does that mean for CHS athletes?

If you’re a current senior or junior, you will finish your prep athletic career in the 1A North Sound Conference. No one and done, it’s our home for at least two school years, this current one and the next.

After that, everything is in play.

The next classification count happens this year, either way, with each school tallying up students currently in grades 9-11.

If the second amendment passes, administrators will look at the state average for free and reduced lunches, and see how their school stacks up.

In an effort to better balance the field between rich (often private) schools and ones who struggle financially, schools above the state average would get to reduce their student body count by the same percentage.

That could allow some schools to drop down a classification, though they can’t jump more than one level.

After that, if the first amendment passes, the WIAA will no longer try to balance the number of schools in each classification, as it has for the past decade-plus.

That’s huge for Coupeville, which had 2B numbers during the last count in 2016, but was pushed back up to 1A in the effort to keep balance between the divisions.

CHS, after losing 10% of its student body in two years, appealed in 2018 to drop down, but was denied.

If hard line numbers are used, this is how the classification system will look in 2020:

4A — 1300+ students
3A — 900-1299
2A — 450-899
1A — 225-449
2B — 105-224
1B — 1-104

Once a school does its count, and uses the adjustment for free/reduced lunches (if above the state average), they will know where they sit, and no longer have to wait to see if they are bumped for “parity.”

Those classifications remain in effect for four years, and schools can appeal their status during the second year.

Schools can still opt to play up a classification, such as Archbishop Murphy currently does, competing as a 2A school while having a 1A-level student body count, but can’t opt down.

If CHS lands between 105-224 students, which appears possible, it would likely return to the Northwest B League in 2020, rejoining Concrete, La Conner and other foes it faced on a regular basis up through the ’80s.

If not, the 1A North Sound Conference, which Coupeville joined in 2018 after four seasons in the 1A Olympic League, will still be there waiting, though its current six-team look could change.

Granite Falls only recently slipped down from 2A to 1A after an appeal, while King’s and Cedar Park Christian, as private schools, won’t be helped by the free/reduced lunch amendment, and could actually be hurt.

There has been discussion about going the opposite way with private schools, automatically adding a certain percentage to the student body count. Whether that will become a reality is one of many things to keep an eye on if the amendments pass.

While going with hard line numbers seems like an ideal choice, the WIAA resisted for some time because of the likelihood some classifications would become substantially bigger than others.

If one classification has, say, 20 more schools than another, than it’s harder for each school at the more-crowded level to earn a berth at a state tournament.

The compromise is, if the amendments pass, state tourney fields will no longer have to be the same size at all levels.

If we’re operating under hard line numbers in 2020, here’s how it breaks down:

84+ schools in a classification = 24-team state tourney
69-83 schools = 20-team state tourney
53-68 schools = (traditional) 16-team state tourney
37-52 schools = 12-team state tourney
20-36 schools = 8-team state tourney
19 or less schools = combine with the division above for state tourney

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