Move could lower cost and reduce travel, inequities

Portland Public Schools is inviting public feedback on a proposal to have all PPS high schools compete in a re-established Portland Interscholastic League starting next school year.

All nine high schools, including the districtwide focus-option schools Jefferson and Benson, would compete at a 6A level classification level in a unified league.

That’s contrary to the four options previously floated by PPS Athletic Director Marshall Haskins, as a Sept. 5 Tribune story reported.

The option moving forward, he says, is “designed to increase athletic participation and competitiveness, in conjunction with PPS’ ongoing efforts to increase graduation rates and strengthen high schools.”

Steve Walker, spokesman for the Oregon School Activities Association, says Haskins presented the idea to the OSAA’s executive board on Monday, and will return to present it at the next OSAA classification and districting meeting on Sept. 23.

The committee will consider the plan, may make changes, and will forward the proposal to the OSAA executive board, which meets Oct. 28. That board in turn will forward it on to the OSAA’s Delegate Assembly, which meets later that day.

At that time the plan would be finalized and take effect next school year.

“OSAA has never told a school or group of schools they can’t play up,” Walker says. The new classification would create a ripple effect within the PIL, since there would be more 6A teams and fewer 5A. The committee will have to set a new cutoff point, based on the latest enrollment numbers released in October.

“The intent was to make the ratio between the largest and smallest school in each league smaller, so there’d be more competitive equity,” Walker says. “In this case, some of the smaller schools in the PIL (such as Benson and Jefferson), if they weren’t required to play up, it would be a smaller classification for sure.”

The last time PPS schools were in the same classification was 2005-06. PPS leaders say a unified league would:

n Give all Portland high school students the opportunity to play at the competitive 6A level, eliminate inequities across high schools and strengthen all athletic programs.

n Reduce student travel time and transportation costs. Some Portland high schools compete in leagues that require teams to transport players and coaches to Astoria, Eugene, Hood River, The Dalles and other communities. That results in missed instructional time for students and higher costs for PPS’ athletics program.

n Rejuvenate traditional rivalries and energize greater alumni and community support.

“This proposal recognizes that all Portland schools can support the highest quality of competitive athletics,” Haskins said in a statement. “Portland’s high schools have won state titles and produced world-recognized and professional athletes. One PIL with a single classification for all of our high schools is the best way to build and sustain strong athletic programs for our students.”

Superintendent Carole Smith called it “part of our systemwide effort to strengthen our high schools and produce greater equity and better results for students.”

She added: “This is an important first step toward reinvigorating the competitiveness, strong participation and pride in our high school athletics that our students, boosters and community members love and want to see at every Portland school.”

A public meeting to discuss the proposal is set for 6:30 to 8 p.m. Sept. 18 at Franklin High School, 5405 S.E. Woodward St.

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