The Rumors Aren’t True: La Salle Will Remain in the 5A Classification

The+OSAA+recently+decided+to+only+consider+freshmen%2C+sophomores%2C+and+juniors+when+evaluating+enrollment+numbers%2C+excluding+seniors+from+this+count.

Reilly Smith

The OSAA recently decided to only consider freshmen, sophomores, and juniors when evaluating enrollment numbers, excluding seniors from this count.

Mariah Moore, Staff Reporter

Every four years, the Oregon School Activities Association reevaluates each Oregon high school and the state of their enrollment, as well as the states of their athletic programs. They sometimes make small changes, and other times they are significant changes like evaluating which of the six brackets schools should be in for competition. 

Although OSAA released a proposal on Sept. 17 that included the possibility of La Salle moving down to 4A, that has since then been overturned, meaning La Salle sports will continue to compete in the 5A bracket. 

La Salle has been in the 5A classification for eight school years now, but during this year’s evaluation, La Salle was originally slotted in the 4A range due to the decline in enrollment. For the 2021-2022 school year, the school’s enrollment is 603 students, according to La Salle’s Athletic Director Mr. Chris George, unlike other years where La Salle has typically had enrollment in the low 700s.

The 5A range for the upcoming school year is 590-900 students. Although La Salle’s student body is within that range, this year, the OSAA decided only to count freshmen through juniors since the seniors will be graduating.

For most school years, OSAA also looks at the enrollment over 13 months, but this year they decided to condense the timeline and only look at enrollment from August to December. Because of this new system of counting student population, La Salle was placed in the 4A classification.

Over the past couple of years, La Salle’s enrollment numbers have declined. Despite lower enrollment, Mr. George, and other school administrators met and decided to opt out of moving down to the 4A bracket. “We feel most comfortable in the Northwest Conference,” Mr. George said.

If La Salle would have decided to play down, they would be most likely playing in the Tri-Valley Conference or the Cowapa League, depending on whether the OSAA maintained the current six classifications or shrunk down to five. 

Additionally, this year, OSAA board members discussed the possibility of condensing the classifications to five brackets because some large schools in rural areas have to travel closer to Portland to play. 

According to Mr. George, La Salle is not impacted in a prominent way, and the change wouldn’t affect the school as much.

However, some students, coaches, and spectators from other schools have to travel for hours to participate in competitions against other schools their size. With COVID-19, there is also a shortage of buses and bus drivers, making it harder for student-athletes to find rides to their games. Moreover, students are losing hours of school time and sleep because they spend more time driving to their sporting events, sometimes leaving school early and not returning home until late in the night. 

One of the potential proposals is that districts become based on region rather than based on school size. This means that schools would play other schools near them no matter how big or small they are. Hypothetically, if this were to happen, La Salle would play against Rex Putnam, Clackamas, Milwaukie, possibly Centennial, and any other schools in the area. 

Currently, classifications are determined by school student body size because size has “always been the historical method to try to figure out whether or not you have a chance of being good,” Mr. George said. 

Larger schools have more of an advantage because there are so many more students who choose to play. The more students they have to play with and against at their own school makes them better because they feed off the competitiveness, which in the end makes them “sharpened,” Mr. George said.

Nowadays, with clubs and kids specializing in sports, it doesn’t matter where they go to school because they are playing with students outside of school who are pushing them and making them strong athletes, Mr. George said.

In regards to the proposal for a five-classification model — which would establish five brackets rather than the current six competition brackets — Mr. George said this would create some challenges with competitive balance considering that some schools are two or three times the size of their competitors.

As for La Salle, Mr. George said that if this change were to happen, it wouldn’t affect La Salle as much and said that the sports programs at La Salle are strong competitors that can keep up with schools twice their size. In non-conference games, La Salle has been known for playing against the biggest schools and beating them in multiple sports. 

The regional model would be beneficial because it would “keep it super simple” and allow students to spend less time traveling to schools that are farther away, said Mr. George. 

La Salle’s athletics department schedules regionally when they have the ability to play non-conference games because all the regional schools are “all in this together [and] we need to give each other games,” Mr. George said. 

“Everybody has a perspective,” Mr. George said, referring to schools that had representatives at the OSAA meetings about the new changes and how each of the people brought their own opinions and needs. Schools all across the state have different perspectives and needs when it comes to their school, but according to Mr. George, schools need to focus on the greater good of the state rather than just themselves. 

Historically, the OSAA has had six classifications since 2006, when they switched from having just four. They realized that there were a lot of challenges with competitiveness in the 4A and 2A divisions, so they broke them apart and made six. 

In 2006, the OSAA decided to expand the classifications and break up the 4A and 2A divisions. 1A stayed as 1A, 2A split up into 2A and 3A, 3A changed to 4A, and 4A broke up into 5A and 6A, making six different classifications. (Mariah Moore)

Although Mr. George said he doesn’t think that moving to five classifications is likely to happen this time around, “I think it’d be good for us to really do a deep dive and think about it,” he said.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, “it’s been really hard to devote attention to it, as school leaders and administrators, to really get into the data,” he said. Their main focus right now is to practice, play as much as possible, and try to “keep the doors open and keep kids healthy.” 

Currently, the draft for classifications includes six brackets, with La Salle remaining in the 5A bracket. In a meeting about the classifications, members voted unanimously for keeping the number of classifications to six brackets, according to Mr. George.

“No matter what your system is, there [are] ways to manage within the system that you have,” said Mr. George. 

The last meeting is on Dec. 13, when the OSAA board members will make the final decision regarding all of the proposals.