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Lighthouse vs. Valley football

Lighthouse wide receiver Eric Silva makes his way up the field during the game against the Valley Vikings Friday, Aug. 26, 2016, at Lighthouse Christian School in Twin Falls. Lighthouse Christian was one of the schools that would have been affected by the proposed measure that IHSAA voted down Wednesday.

BOISE – Socio-economics won’t trump pure enrollment numbers in the classification system for Idaho high school sports — but losing could.

The Idaho High School Activities Association voted against installing a new model that weighs the socio-economic status at each school at its board meeting Wednesday, but it did approve a lifeline for schools to petition down based on competitive history.

That means the current system of dividing schools solely by their student enrollment will remain in place for the next classification cycle, which includes the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years.

Based on enrollment numbers, Caldwell and Skyview each will move up to the 5A Southern Idaho Conference in the fall of 2018, making it a 14-team league. That will leave six teams in the 4A SIC.

The board said it was difficult to obtain consistent and accurate information from the State Department of Education for every school’s free or reduced lunch numbers because of student privacy data laws. Schools would have deducted 25 percent of their students who receive free or reduced lunches from their enrollment figures. The change was designed to reflect the different circumstances at schools like Caldwell (63 percent free or reduced lunches) and Eagle (11 percent).

“They liked the idea. They liked the thought behind it, but it’s just too hard to get all those numbers right now,” IHSAA Executive Director Ty Jones said.

While the proposal didn’t pass, the board did approve the addition of a “competitive equity form,” giving schools an opportunity to petition down a classification based on their success.

That petition would then go before the IHSAA board or the state’s superintendents for approval.

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According to the form, a school with a strong case to drop down would meet one or both of the following criteria: 75 percent of the school’s team sports (football, basketball, baseball, etc.) finishing with a winning percentage at or below 33 percent the previous two years; or finishing in the bottom 50 percent of the district tournaments 75 percent of the time for individual sports (cross country, wrestling, track, etc.).

The board also said schools can include their percentage of students receiving free or reduced lunch in the petition, but that information isn’t required.

“We have a pretty good classification system in place. A lot of schools are not going to be affected by the classification change that’s been proposed,” IHSAA board member Tol Gropp said. “But the few schools that really need it, they still have a chance to petition to get down.”

Jones said the IHSAA will work with the State Department of Education to try to obtain official free and reduced lunch numbers for each school in case the proposal is reintroduced for the next classification cycle starting in 2020-21.

“Our board is interested enough, they want to know if that’s something we can get to,” Jones said. “So if this comes up again — and it probably will — I want to know and be able to answer that question: ‘This is how hard it is. This is how easy it is. They told us no. They told us yes.’ Just so we know exactly, can we do this? And how many hoops do we have to jump through?”

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