Monroe High School is moving down from Class 4A to Class 3A for the next four-year statewide classification cycle, which begins next fall.
Monroe’s athletic teams have long competed at the 4A level, but the school’s average enrollment for grades 9-11 dropped well into the 3A range for the upcoming Washington Interscholastic Activities Association reclassification, according to Monroe High School athletic director Jeannette Siemers.
Schools can opt up to a higher classification, but the Monroe School District announced Wednesday that its Board of Directors decided to forgo that option. Schools choosing to opt up must do so for all of their athletic teams and activities.
The deadline for schools to submit their opt-up declarations is Friday. The WIAA will finalize the state’s classifications for the 2020-24 cycle on Jan. 26.
“There was conversation about opting up to 4A,” Siemers said. “We were monitoring really closely what was going on statewide and with Wesco. … With as much information as possible, the board made a decision to align with our numbers.”
A school’s classification is determined by its average enrollment numbers for grades 9-11. In an amendment passed last January, the WIAA instituted hard-line cutoff numbers for the next classification cycle instead of the previous system that split the state’s member schools evenly among the six classifications. In another amendment passed last January, schools can now receive an enrollment drop based on reduced-lunch rates relative to the state average.
Under the new system, schools with average enrollment numbers of 1,300 or more are considered 4A schools. The 3A range is from 900 to 1,299 students. According to Siemers, Monroe’s average enrollment number is 1,177.
“We also projected out what our potential enrollment would be moving forward,” Siemers said. “So I looked closely at our upcoming classes … and there wasn’t a huge difference.”
Monroe School District officials said they considered input from high school administration, coaches, players and community members, including results from a community-wide survey that was conducted in November.
Siemers also said they did their best to monitor the plans of other Wesco schools that could be affected by reclassification, but acknowledged that was a challenging endeavor. She said the possibility of other Wesco 4A schools moving down a classification factored into the decision.
“It was kind of like playing a really high-stakes poker game, but everyone held their cards really close,” Siemers said. “… (We) definitely took into context and consideration anything and every piece of information we could.”
Monroe is currently one of eight Wesco 4A schools. The other seven are Cascade, Glacier Peak, Jackson, Kamiak, Lake Stevens, Mariner and Mount Vernon.
There are currently 12 Wesco schools in the 3A classification: Arlington, Edmonds-Woodway, Everett, Lynnwood, Marysville Getchell, Marysville Pilchuck, Meadowdale, Oak Harbor, Shorecrest, Shorewood, Snohomish and Stanwood.
For most sports, Wesco has a multi-classification 3A/2A league consisting of 15 schools: the 12 aforementioned 3A schools, plus 2A schools Archbishop Murphy, Cedarcrest and Mountlake Terrace. For some sports, Wesco 3A/2A is split into separate North and South leagues.
According to Siemers, Wesco will meet to determine changes in league alignments after the statewide reclassification is finalized.