Staying at 3A classification best decision for Terrace, AD and principal say

MTHS Athletic Director Kim Stewart
MTHS Athletic Director Kim Stewart

Mountlake Terrace High School Principal Greg Schwab and School Athletic Director Kim Stewart met with the school’s coaches and parents Monday night to explain their decision to keep the school in 3A competition even though the school’s enrollment numbers place it in the 2A category.

The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) announced last week the makeup of six size classifications of 380 high schools in the state, with Mountlake Terrace High School once again landing in the 3A division. But a few coaches at MTHS were dissatisfied with the news after hearing the enrollment figures for the school could have landed them into the 2A classification.

At a coaches and parents meeting Monday night, Stewart re-emphasized that he was initially told by WIAA officials that Mountlake Terrace was being classified as a 3A school.

“John Miller (WIAA Assistant Executive Director) told me right now you are a 3A team,” Stewart said of his initial phone conversation with the WIAA on Dec. 20.

For 2014-2016, the WIAA placed schools with 9th through 11th grade enrollment figures above 1,252.4 students in the 4A classification. Schools with an enrollment range of 990.0-1,252.3 fell into the 3A classification; enrollments of 472-990.8 placed a school into the 2A classification.

In an effort to ensure fairly even numbers in each classifications, schools are often given the option to move up or down a classification. As school administrators around the state were considering opting up or down, Stewart was asked by the WIAA if Mountlake Terrace wanted to move down to 2A to make room for a school to possibly opt up to 3A, but his answer was required in 45 minutes.

Stewart said he quickly called Schwab for consultation. The two school administrators decided without more time to consider the offer, and without information about all the ramifications concerning a move to 2A (scheduling, team travel, post-season complications), the school should remain in the classification that the WIAA initially assigned it to.

To consider opting down to 2A “would have been an absolute about-face in philosophy,” Stewart said,” and that would have needed a much longer discussion than 45 minutes with Greg (Schwab).”

“My philosophy is we play where we are placed,” explained Schwab. “We were placed in 3A; we were asked to move down to 2A,” an offer he and Stewart ultimately passed on.

The decision to not take up the offer to opt down to 2A didn’t sit well with a few MTHS coaches, but in an informal poll of all 16 coaches done last week 12 voted that the school should remain 3A; three coaches said that the school should have opted down to 2A, and one coach saying it didn’t matter to him.

Most of the pushback from coaches who preferred a 2A classification for the school was related to how the WIAA placed Mountlake Terrace into the 3A classification when the school’s enrollment number of 957.7 should have landed it in 2A. Some coaches also felt a 2A classification would have given Mountlake Terrace teams and athletes opportunities to compete against schools with enrollment numbers similar and smaller than the Hawks.

Stewart countered that having Mountlake Terrace compete in 2A would have been problematic in scheduling and in post-season appearances. The school would still be part of the Wesco League even if it had opted for a 2A classification, but come the post-season it would have most likely had to play against Northwest Conference schools in Skagit and Whatcom Counties, and in a system that that conference would have devised.

“We would be traveling to Mount Vernon (and) north for the playoffs,” Stewart explained. “We wouldn’t be able to host a playoff game, at (Edmonds) Stadium, in our gym, if we went 2A.”

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