The final student counts have been completed by the WIAA which is the first step to set the classifications for each school going into next season and running through 2028. Every 4-years the WIAA does a student count and those numbers determine which classification school belong in for the next cycle.

The WIAA Executive Board has already changed the enrollment ranges from the last cycle specifically the difference between 3A and 4A. The last cycle ending at the end of this season had 4A schools at 1300+ and 3A from 900-1299. Those levels pushed 79 schools down to the 3A ranks and just 51 at the 4A level.

This led to 3A getting 20 team tournaments which had some unforeseen issues such as some tournaments forced to play a play-in game in the opening round of the tournament with the winner moving on to the 16-team bracket and loser out. So, for example in the 3A State Volleyball tournament seeds 13-20 played the loser out matches on day 1 of the tournament at 8am in the morning. 4 teams were eliminated and out.

This has been tough on schools and families due to having to travel to Yakima for the single game and not knowing if they were going to need hotel rooms and for how many nights etc. It was a lot of expense for a team to shoulder to play 1 match and go home. Ideally the 16 team tournament guarantees at least a full day of competing and teams traveling a distance knowing they are staying even if they are knocked out late on day 1.

The flip side was the 4A was in a range of having to play a 12-team tournament which was adjusted by the Executive Board to allow 4A play 16 team tournaments. Trying to balance the 6 classifications as much as possible is the goal. The Executive Board maintains the right to further move the enrollment levels to achieve a better balance up until the final numbers go to the board for final approval.

WIAA’s Andy Barnes

ESN talked with Assistant WIAA Executive Director Andy Barnes wh0 says the goal is really to have each classification between 60-70 schools which would be near the former system that limited each classification to 65 schools despite student counts. By shifting some 3A schools up to 4A this can be accomplished in all classifications but 1B. As the smallest classification from 1-104 there is no where schools can drop any further. Last year there were 89 schools at the 1B level and it is not expected for a significant number to move up that would change the current levels.

It is important to understand that this is just the beginning of the classification process, now that the schools know what number they have and where they fit on the enrollment range.

The WIAA is also adjusting the free and reduced lunch metric that allowed schools to reduce the number of students counted based on the percent of free and reduced lunch eligible students. That number seemed to be a bit inconsistent so they will now use what is called Direct Certification which is believed to be a fairer system in determining how much the student count can be reduced based on household economics. This is because the Direct Certification can actually be documented as families are required to complete paperwork where free and reduced they are not.

There are 3 steps a school can take at this point. 1st they can opt up. Any school regardless of student count can opt up to any classification level. If you have a student count that puts you in 1A and you choose to move up to 4A you can do so by notifying the WIAA. This is done mostly by private schools especially in the more urban areas to play in the upper classifications.

The other step a school can take is to appeal their classification which is used for schools to drop down despite the student count being at the higher level. Some of the reasons a school may be granted an appeal is when the school can provide evidence that their school is facing issues that are impacting the number of students that are turning out or eligible to compete in sports. Each appeal is dealt with directly first by District Directors and then they WIAA Executive Board.

The 3rd thing a school can do is simply accept their classification status.

Here is the timeline for this re-classification cycle:
December 2023: Adjusted Enrollment Counts available to Membership
December 22: Deadline for Schools to Declare Opt-up and/or Notification of Intent to Appeal Classification
January 5, 2024: Classification appeal paperwork deadline (School, League, WIAA District)
January 18-19, 2024: Classification Appeals (District Directors Appeal Panel)
January 21, 2024: WIAA Executive Board Approves Classification Numbers and Range Balancing (if needed)
January 2024-August 2024: Schools can begin league alignment process/sport schedule planning
August 1, 2024: 2024-28 Classification Cycle Begins

Below are the new enrollment ranges with the number of schools in the current cycle. Below that is the link to the WIAA students counts for each school in alphabetical order.

2024-2028 ENROLLMENT RANGES (GRADES 9-11) with number of schools in the current cycle.

1200+ and had 51 schools in 2020-2024 current cycle

900-1199 and had 79 schools in 2020-2024 current cycle

450-899 and had 62 schools in 2020-2024 current cycle

225-449 and had 60 schools in 2020-2024 current cycle

105-224 and had 61 schools in 2020-2024 current cycle

1-104 and had 89 schools in 2020-2024 current cycle

Link to see final student count for 2024-2028 classification cycle



By paulb

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