Decatur, Beamer, FW will become 3A schools in two years


The Mirror

The South Puget Sound League and the athletic programs around the Federal Way School District will have a vastly different look in the fall of 2006.

Decatur, Beamer and Federal Way high schools are set to “move down” and become Class 3A schools before the 2006-07 sports seasons when the SPSL becomes a three-division league — one of which will be 3A. Thomas Jefferson will remain a Class 4A school in the SPSL.

“It is a win-win situation for us,” said Federal Way High School athletic director Bob France, who was part of the SPSL Realignment Committee. “We are very excited. The SPSL is by far the best league in the state and everybody wanted to remain in the SPSL. So this is a very good thing.”

The new SPSL realignment was necessitated by the addition of three new high schools next year, as well as proposed legislation by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) that will reclassify schools to get an equal number of programs in all classifications.

Auburn Mountainview, Bonney Lake and Graham-Kapowsin high schools are slated to join the SPSL in the fall, making the largest league in the state even bigger. The additions will bring the league’s total to 22 schools.

“It was just going to be too big to handle that many schools,” France said. “It just makes it a nightmare to make out a schedule.”

The new WIAA reclassification amendment, which could be voted on as early as this weekend, would set the Class 4A cutoff number at a little over 1,300 students in grades 10 through 12. Decatur, Beamer and Federal Way sit in the 1,200 student range, while Jefferson is well above the cutoff with over 1,450 students. Currently, there are 91 Class 4A schools, 78 3A schools, 51 2A, 53 in the 1A classification and 111 B schools. The new amendment would put about 80 schools in each class.

Breaking up the SPSL into three divisions began to gain a little momentum during the early part of 2005 during informal conversations among the league’s athletic directors. But the idea for the 3A division wasn’t cemented until two weeks ago when France informed the SPSL Realignment Committee that the three Federal Way schools would likely be classified as 3A and would prefer to compete at that level.

“Our programs are better off to compete with schools the same size as us,” France said. “We were going up against schools that were twice our size, like Bethel and Auburn. The competition is not an even playing field at all. Now, we will be some of the largest schools in 3A and compete at a better level.”

The proposed three-division format of the league passed the SPSL Realignment Committee by a 20-0 vote April 20 and was approved April 21 by the SPSL’s athletic directors 24-0. The final action will be taken this week by the SPSL’s principals.

“It will pass,” France said. “The advantages will allow schools whose (enrollment) numbers go up and down to make lateral shifts (to 3A or 4A) while keeping the SPSL together.”

The proposed realignment for the SPSL will include two Class 4A divisions and one Class 3A division. The 3A division is set to consist of Decatur, Beamer, Federal Way, Enumclaw, Sumner and Bonney Lake high schools. It is also likely that Auburn Riverside and the new Auburn Mountainview high schools will have enrollments eligible for 3A competition. But there’s still talk of the two schools opting up into one of the SPSL’s 4A divisions, according to France.

If the two Auburn schools decide to remain as 4A schools, that would mean Jefferson would remain in the Class 4A SPSL South Division with Bethel, Spanaway Lake, Puyallup, Rogers, Emerald Ridge, Curtis and the new Graham-Kapowsin High School.

If the two Auburn schools opt for the 3A division, TJ would move into the 4A SPSL North with Auburn, Kentlake, Kentwood, Kent-Meridian, Kentridge and Tahoma. This would be the preference of Federal Way School District officials because the North Division offers far less travel.

White River High School in Buckley is also applying for admittance into the 3A division of the SPSL. The school is currently playing in the Seamount League.

“White River has a pretty good chance to get in,” France said. “But it’s not going to be easy for them to get into our league. The SPSL is going to be very picky.”

The SPSL Realignment Committee was commissioned by the league’s principals association in the fall of 2004 to consider issues and make recommendations related to league realignment.

“It’s going to be quite a shift,” France said. “It’s a major thing for the league.”

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565,

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