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UHSAA proposes big changes for some schools in first 2013-'15 realignment draft

Published: Friday, July 3 2015 11:56 a.m. MDT

Utah State High School 5A Football semifinal between Lone Peak and Jordan in Rice-Eccles Stadium, Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012. (Ben Brewer, Deseret News) Utah State High School 5A Football semifinal between Lone Peak and Jordan in Rice-Eccles Stadium, Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012. (Ben Brewer, Deseret News)

MIDVALE — While much of the Utah high school sports landscape will remain the same next year, significant changes are on the horizon for some schools.

Currrent 3A school, Wasatch, could be in a 4A region with Timpview, Springville, Spanish Fork, Salem Hills, Provo, Payson and Maple Mountain when the UHSAA's 2013-'15 realignment takes effect next fall. Orem, Timpanogos and Mountain View could move to a 4A region with Murray, Hillcrest, Skyline, Olympus and the soon-to-open Canyons District' school, Corner Canyon.

Bingham and Riverton would join a 5A region with Taylorsville, West Jordan, Copper Hills and Hunter, while 4A schools Herriman and Westlake could move to 5A and join a region with American Fork, Lehi, Lone Peak, and Pleasant Grove.

Kearns would move from 5A to 4A and join a region with Bountiful, Clearfield, Cyprus, East, Highland and Woods Cross.

The state will move to six classifications in football, although the regions will remain the same for all sports in 4A and 5A under this first proposal, which the UHSAA produced Thursday. The larger of the 3A schools will now be called "3AA" and will be split into two regions — north and south.

In the first draft, the 3AA north region consists of Bear River, Ben Lomond, Carbon, Juan Diego, Park City, Stansbury, Tooele and Uintah. The 3AA south region is made up of Canyon View, Cedar, Desert Hills, Dixie, Hurricane, Pine View and Snow Canyon.

In 3A, the north region is American Leadership, Summit, Grantsville, Morgan, Judge and Union. The southern region is North Sanpete, Richfield, Juab, Delta, Manti and Emery.

Region 9 representative Craig Seegmiller pointed out that Cedar and Canyon View had hoped to move into a different region for football than the rest of the St. George-area schools so they could better compete.

For other sports, Canyon View and Cedar were placed in a region with Juab, North Sanpete and Richfield, while Desert Hills, Dixie, Hurricane, Pine View and Snow Canyon made up the other 3A region for all sports except football.

Juan Diego was a point of contention in football, and BOT members moved the private school into 3AA where the school is now the smallest in that classification with 405 students in grades 11 and 12.

The 2A football region was one of the most-discussed issues, and a collection of 2A coaches and principals gathered after the meeting and came up with a proposal they'll discuss at a coaches' meeting Friday.

The regions accepted by the BOT for this first proposal are: Beaver, Millard, North Summit, Layton Christian, South Summit and Gunnison in one region; Enterprise, Parowan, South Sevier, North Sevier, Kanab, Grand and San Juan in the other. The proposal being discussed late Friday would swap North Sevier and South Sevier with Beaver and Millard.

The major sticking point in that situation is the travel to Grand and San Juan and the fact that neither school allows its sub-varsity to travel for football so it reduces the number of games for other region opponents for junior varsity and sophomore teams.

The BOT will take comments on the first drafts of the alignment in writing and at a public hearing on Nov. 28. The BOT will make adjustments and then finalize the 2013-2015 alignment in its meeting the next day, Nov. 29.

The most difficult issue of the day turned out to be whether or not to include alternative school students in population numbers used to classify schools.

Students who attend alternative schools that are not housed in the same building as a traditional school have never been included in past alignments. But in August the Board of Trustees voted to include those students in population counts.

Several people, including the Ogden School Superintendent and Ben Lomond principal asked the BOT to reconsider including those numbers as it would push them into higher classifications for students who do not participate in sports. Many of the schools with large numbers of students in alternative schools also struggle with lower participation numbers, and oftentimes are less competitive.

"Counting the students at the alternative high school is a matter of complexity," said Brad Smith, superintendent of Ogden schools. "They are students at a separate school in every sense of the word. They have their own principal, their own graduation. And frankly, the transfer rules should be in force. To count them seems to be a solution in search of a problem."

While most schools and districts have never included alternative school students, both Logan and Murray do. That's because their alternative school programs are housed in the same facilities as the traditional high school.

"Needing to count them would imply that our transfer rule isn't working," said Seegmiller. "If our transfer rule is working, then we don't need to count them. And if it doesn’t, why not?" Any student transferring from an alternative school to a regular high school has to file hardship paperwork with the UHSAA and be approved to be eligible.

After a public hearing Thursday, an executive session (closed to the public) and about an hour-long discussion, the BOT voted 17-10 to count the alternative school students in population numbers.

New this alignment period is the fact that any school, not just those that are tied or in bubble situation, can petition to go up in just football or all sports. Several schools expressed interest in doing so, but that likely won't be presented until the Nov. 28 hearing.

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