Arlington’s Wyatt Tilton gets his team pumped up before the Stilly Cup rivalry game against Stanwood on Sept. 30, 2022, in Arlington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Arlington’s Wyatt Tilton gets his team pumped up before the Stilly Cup rivalry game against Stanwood on Sept. 30, 2022, in Arlington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

WIAA seeks to rebalance 3A and 4A classifications

The new parameters could mean local schools such as Cascade and Arlington may move to 4A during the next reclassification cycle.

The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association Representative Assembly voted to pass eight amendments, including one that will redefine enrollment parameters in Class 4A and 3A, the WIAA announced Monday.

The most significant approval will lower the enrollment cap in 3A from 1,299 students to 1,224 and lower the floor in 4A from 1,300 to 1,225 in an effort to rebalance the classifications during the 2025-28 reclassification cycle.

There are currently 79 schools in 3A and 51 in 4A, which has led 3A state tournaments to an expanded 20-team/person format across volleyball, basketball, soccer, tennis, wrestling, baseball and softball.

Fourteen 3A schools had adjusted enrollments of 1,225-1,299 students at the start of the latest cycle (2020-24).

The move could also help create some balance in 4A and 3A locally. Wesco currently features just five 4A schools compared to 14 in 3A. The five 4A schools in Wesco are also the only five in District 1, which has 17 3A members.

At the start of the 2020-24 cycle, 3A schools Cascade (1,254.9), Arlington (1,238) and former Wesco member Mount Vernon (1,249.5) each had enrollment numbers that would fall into the new 4A parameters. Mount Vernon, which competed in Wesco from 2012-20, is now a member of the Northwest Conference, which has zero 4A teams.

“That’s the intent of the amendment, so we’re definitely going to see some type of movement,” said Don Dalziel, Wesco president and Shoreline School District athletic director. “How the league reacts to that I think is completely speculation at this point. … There’s a lot of moving parts.”

Those moving parts include the budget crises facing many school districts locally, which could make geographic-based divisions an option.

“It would not shock me that if as a league we have conversations about switching back to a more geographical schedule, which may or may not be multi-classification,” Dalziel said. “It just really depends on the number of schools in which classification and where they lie.”

Dalziel said athletic directors will start to get a clearer picture of how things could shake out when initial enrollment reports are scheduled to be released in June. The final numbers are scheduled to be released in January 2024.

“I would suspect that the closer we get to January that the more firm the numbers are going to look and we’ll be able to tell if school X is on the bubble between being 3A and 4A or moving up or moving down,” Dalziel said.

Another notable amendment passed by the WIAA helped define a resident public school and a school of choice. A resident public school is a school a student would normally attend based on residence within the school district and the district’s policies. A school of choice is a non-resident public school and can be a public, private, alternative, home or online school. A student transferring from a school of choice will only be granted eligibility through a hardship waiver if transferring to their resident school.

The representative assembly also voted to increase the maximum number of matches allowed for tennis teams in a single season from 16 to 18.

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