In August, the WHSAA released new ADMs (enrollment numbers) to its member schools. The WHSAA will use those numbers to classify schools for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years; that discussion begins in earnest Tuesday when the WHSA Board of Directors meets in Casper for the first of its four quarterly meetings and ends in November when the structures are finalized at the second WHSAA board meeting.
It’s not that simple, though.
On its surface, reclassification is straightforward: Your enrollment, and the enrollment of the schools around you, set where your school will be classified. And yet, every reclassification cycle is divisive, usually (1) because the small schools feel slighted for having to play much larger schools even though they’re in the same classification, (2) because a school moving to a new classification harms an existing rivalry or (3) because conferences within the classifications struggle to represent the classification as a whole.
No matter how reclassification comes out, someone is upset.
But what if I told you that reclassification — and all the heartache and frustration that comes with it — isn’t necessary? The solution is so obvious I’m embarrassed I hadn’t already realized it:
Let’s eliminate enrollment differences altogether and make every high school in the state have the same enrollment.
Think about it — if every school had the same enrollment, theoretically, every school would have the same chance as every other one in the state, and wouldn’t have the “handicap” of a small enrollment or the “advantage” of a large number of students. You’d get to play schools that are nearly the exact same size, and they’d be close by.
Obviously, exact isn’t feasible. But we can get close. Here is how:
Let’s start with the math. With 71 high schools, and a total ADM of 26,812, Wyoming high schools have an average of 378 students per listed high school. That’s the number we’ll aim for with our new schools.
Geography will keep most schools from hitting 378 students exactly, but I think a 50-student leeway on either side (creating a 100-student range of 328 to 428 students per school) would be acceptable.
As we piece together both the geography of Wyoming and the target number of 378, a pattern emerges. Using geography and enrollment as our guides, we can establish 72 feasible high schools that hit the enrollment range of 328 and 428 — one more high school than the state has now, but close enough to work. Of those 72, 45 schools are within 50 students of our target number of 378, and 21 are within 10 students of 378. The smallest is 330.5, the largest 411.
Ranked by enrollment, the schools are:
North Big Horn (Powell, Rocky Mountain, Lovell): 2 schools at 411 students each
Green River: 2 schools at 408.25 students each
Gillette: 6 schools at 406.5 students each
Rock Springs/Farson: 4 schools at 402.5 students each
Riverton: 2 schools at 393.8 students each
Platte County (Wheatland, Guernsey-Sunrise, Glendo, Chugwater): 1 school at 393.5 students
Northeast Conglomerated (Hulett, Moorcroft, Sundance, Upton, Newcastle, Wright): 2 schools at 389.8 students each
Laramie County (Central, East, South, Burns, Pine Bluffs): 11 schools at 385 students each
Carbon County (Rawlins, Snake River, Encampment, Saratoga, Hanna): 2 schools at 380 students each
West Fremont (Lander, Wyoming Indian, Fort Washakie, Dubois): 2 schools at 376.1 students each
Sublette/South Lincoln (Pinedale, Big Piney, Kemmerer, Cokeville): 2 schools at 375.8 students each
Johnson County (Buffalo, Kaycee): 1 school at 375 students
Outer Sheridan (Big Horn, Tongue River, Arvada-Clearmont, NSI): 1 school at 371.5 students
Converse County (Douglas, Glenrock): 2 schools at 368.5 students each
Natrona County (Natrona, Kelly Walsh, Midwest): 10 schools at 364.1 students each
Star Valley: 2 schools at 358.5 students each
South Big Horn Basin (Worland, Thermopolis, Ten Sleep, Meeteetse): 2 schools at 353.75 students each
East Fremont (Wind River, Shoshoni, St. Stephens, Arapahoe): 1 school at 353 students
South Big Horn (Greybull, Riverside, Burlington): 1 school at 352.5 students
Goshen/Niobrara (Torrington, Lingle, Southeast, Lusk): 2 schools at 347.25 students each
Albany County (Laramie, Rock River): 3 schools at 341.2 students each
Sheridan: 3 schools at 338.7 students each
Jackson: 2 schools at 336.5 students each
Uinta County (Evanston, Mountain View, Lyman): 4 schools at 335.75 students each
Cody: 2 schools at 330.5 students each
And I put them in 16 conferences, of 4-5 schools apiece, for ease of state tournament qualifying… By conference, the schools would fit this way:
Northeast (4 schools): Northeast Conglomerated (2 schools), Gillette (2 schools)
Gillette (4): Gillette (4 schools)
Sheridan (4): Outer Sheridan (1 school), Sheridan (3 school)
Casper 1 (5): Natrona County (5 schools)
Casper 2 (5): Natrona County (5 schools)
Southeast (5): Converse (2 schools), Platte (1 school), Goshen/Niobrara (2 schools)
Cheyenne 1 (5): Laramie County (5 schools)
Cheyenne 2 (5): Laramie County (5 schools)
Laramie (4): Laramie County (1 school), Albany County (3 schools)
Southwest 1 (5): Carbon County (2 schools), Rock Springs (3 schools)
Southwest 2 (5): Rock Springs (1 school), Green River (2 schools), Sublette/South Lincoln (2 schools)
Uinta (4): Uinta County (4 schools)
West (4): Star Valley (2 schools), Jackson (2 schools)
Fremont (5): West Fremont (2 schools), Riverton (2 schools), East Fremont (1 school)
North Central (4): South Big Horn County (1 school), South BHB (2 schools), Johnson County (1 school)
Northwest (4): Cody (2 schools), North Big Horn County (2 schools)
This proposal is befitting of the “Equality State” in every sense of the word equality.
Think about it: No classifications means no reclassification problems. Travel is dramatically reduced. No more complaints about the big school/little school divide, especially the consistent cries we hear from the small schools in 4A and 3A. True state champions. Competitive balance. Schools that can sponsor every sport and give every student an equal chance to succeed.
This is what we want.
(Inspired by The United States Redrawn as Fifty States with Equal Population. And, obviously, Jonathan Swift.)