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BHS again mulls move from Metro League

Admins face a cyclical decision about where the Spartans belong.

Bainbridge High School administrators have two months to decide whether to move the Spartans out of the Metro League for the fall 2008 season.

Not that they necessarily want to, but it’s an opportune time to consider their options, Principal Brent Peterson said.

“Its one of those issues that never really goes away,” Peterson told the school board last week. “It ebbs and flows on a two-year cycle.”

That makes 2008 the pro­verb­ial flood year, when the Wash­ington Interscholastic Activities Association, the governing body for high school sports, tells schools what leagues they are qualified to join based on their enrollment.

It’s also the second year of a two-year commitment BHS made to the Seattle-based 3A Metro League, their athletic home of the last six years, meaning Bainbridge is free to change leagues for next fall.

There are two neighboring leagues that BHS could be eligible to join.

One is KingCo 3A, comprised of King County schools outside of Seattle including Bellevue, Issaquah and Mercer Island. To the west is the Olympic League, a mix of 2A and 3A schools including Bremerton, Port Angeles, Port Townsend and Seqium.

Shakeups in both of these leagues will play a role in BHS’s decision.

With Kingston High School opening this fall and drawing students away from North Kitsap, the Vikings will likely move from 4A to 3A, which would give BHS a familiar local rival if they were to join the Olympic League.

“Having (North Kitsap) come down to the 3A level is one thing that has us looking very carefully at the Olympic League,” Peterson said.

Meanwhile a number of 4A Seattle public schools from the KingCo league may try to move into 3A Metro as early as next fall, which could add fresh competition and a broader variety of programs.

“In the middle of all this is Bainbridge Island, sitting between two districts and with a history of playing in several different leagues,” Peterson said.

The Metro league may be the only league current students know, but BHS was once a member of the Wesco League and more recently the Olympic League.

When it applied to the Metro League six years ago, many Seattle schools were less than thrilled about having to ride the ferry to compete on the island, but the league eventually accepted the Spartans.

“We are thankful to be a member of the Metro League,” new Spartan athletic director Annette Duvall said. “But we always feel we need to keep exploring and investigating the best fit for BHS.”

Since starting at BHS last spring, Duvall has been studying the complicated set of criteria that will decide whether a league change makes sense.

There are basic factors to consider, like how much travel time is required to reach opponents’ schools and how much class time student athletes miss.

If BHS joined the peninsula-centered Olympic League, it could eliminate time spent riding the ferry to Seattle. But reaching the far-flung West Sound schools would likely increase time spent on the bus.

For district level play in the Olympic League, BHS teams would have trips of two hours or more to face teams as far away as Tumwater and Olympia.

Administrators must also take into account whether a league change could help BHS find competition for its less mainstream programs like water polo and lacrosse.

Several of these “club” teams have already had to look outside the Metro League for competitors, often competing with KingCo 3A schools that offer that field a wider range of programs.

There are even more complex issues in play, like scheduling flexibility. Many Metro League schools use community facilities to host events, and are more limited in when they can schedule games than schools with their own fields and gyms.

Less tangible still is the underlying comfort level that staff, students and parents have with the Metro League.

“What I hear informally is that people like where we are,” Peterson said. “Parents especially like the opportunity to expose students to the variety of school settings that are available in the Metro League.”

To gauge community sentiment, BHS will be emailing parents a survey asking them which factors factors related to a league change are most important and which of the three available leagues they want the Spartans to be a part of.

Superintendent Ken Crawford will then decide if BHS should apply to join a different league. But even then it will be up to the WIAA and the targeted league to decide whether that application is accepted.

The process is far from simple, but Peterson said the hassle is necessary to make the right decision for students and the school.

“We want to know as much information as possible and proceed with a thoughtful proposal,” he said. “That proposal might be that we are where we belong in the Metro League, and we don’t need to do anything.”

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