Homer Alaska - Schools

Story last updated at 6:05 PM on Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Homer High: Small, medium, large?

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer

Rumors are circulating that Homer High School's declining student population is forcing it into a "small school" designation and threatening athletic programs.

True or false?

It's true HHS has lost students. Eight years ago, with the 2003-2004 school year just starting, then Principal Ron Keffer reported the school had an enrollment of 462 students. Earlier this week, Dr. Allan Gee, current HHS principal, said 398 students are enrolled at the school.

When it comes to sports, however, which schools compete against which schools is sport specific, as is indicated by the Alaska School Activities Association's reclassification of conferences and berths for the 2012-2013 season.

"I'm not sure who's talking or where they're getting their information, but if you look at those pages, it gives an idea of what's going on," said Dave Jones, assistant superintendent of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, referring to the updated information on ASAA's website. "(ASAA) just got through doing all those classifications and we're no where close to being smaller. ... As I see it and with the number of kids in school, (Homer) pretty much sits in the middle of the classifications."

A statewide nonprofit organization established to "direct, develop and support Alaska's high school interscholastic sports, academic and fine arts activities," ASAA sanctions 33 school activities. As outlined on the ASAA website, it sets the competitive seasons, sponsors state competitions, regulates sports officials and provides eligibility criteria for students.

At its meeting in April, ASAA's board of directors approved the conferences and state berths using the following classification standards:

• 4A schools: enrollments of 501 or more;

• 3A schools: enrollments of 151-500;

• 2A schools: enrollments of 61-150;

• 1A schools: enrollments of 1-60.

Still, Gee said, "It's not enough to say it's a small school or large school. It's a specific sport."

Football and hockey are examples. Football is divided by small (enrollment of 325 and smaller), medium (enrollment of 326-800) and large (enrollment of 801 and larger). Homer is in the medium schools Northern Lights conference, along with Houston, Kenai, Kodiak, Skyview and Soldotna. Also medium schools, but in the Southeast conference are Ketchikan, Sitka and Thunder Mountain.

Hockey is divided into 2A-3A (schools with enrollments of 500 or less) and 4A (schools with enrollments of 501 or more). Homer is in the 4A North Star conference along with Colony, Kenai, Palmer, Soldotna and Wasilla. The 2A-3A bracket includes Delta Junction, Glennallen, Houston, Hutchison, Kenny Lake, Monroe Catholic, Su-Valley, Tok and Tri-Valley.

"We had the option because of our enrollment to play down with the combined 2A-3A conference, however the decision by the coaches and myself was to remain at 4A simply because of the cost of travel to these schools," said Gee, adding that another factor in the decision was the amount of time students are away from classes in order to travel to 2A-3A schools.

The biggest difference in terms of whom Homer does and doesn't play is in the areas of basketball and volleyball, said Gee.

"We're no longer having to play Wasilla and Palmer, schools with more than 1,000 students," said Gee. "It puts us more closely aligned with schools with our enrollment, whereas in the past, we were playing schools three times our size."

Those two sports are divided into 4A (enrollments larger than 501); 3A (enrollments of 151-500); 2A (enrollments of 61-150) and 1A (enrollments of 5-60). Homer is in the 3A Southcentral conference, along with Anchorage Christian, Cordova, Grace Christian, Houston, Nikiski, Seward and Skyview.

"Now it's going to get more complicated," said Gee. "Within that Southcentral conference, for basketball and volleyball, we've asked for a northern and southern division of those eight teams simply because of travel costs."

The request has been submitted to ASAA and a decision is pending.

"Are we a small school? A middle school? It all depends on the sport," said Gee. "Saying Homer has moved to small school is not correct. Every school and every sport is specifically based on the number of schools that are participating in that sport. We have to look at each sport and determine can we play those teams and can we afford to travel to that classification as well."

For more on ASAA's reclassification, see http://asaa.org.