BHS Switches from Class A to B

By Beacon Staff

Dropping enrollment numbers prompted state education officials to lower Bigfork High’s class status from A to B.

“Because of declining enrollments,” said Superintendent Russ Kinzer, “we’ve been getting closer to the class B level for some time.”

The Bigfork School Board of Trustees voted 4-2, not to appeal the Montana High School Association’s decision drop the school from A to B at their meeting November 12th.

High schools with a population of 340-825 are class A, 120-339 for class B. The MHSA looks at a school’s 2-year enrollment average when considering whether they should stay or switch their level. Kinzer says BHS’s average 2-year enrollment was 333.25. This year they have 312 high school students, with 55 eighth graders.

Schools can appeal the MHSA’s decision, but Kinzer notes their steadily lowered numbers combined with projected enrollments at or below 330 made that an unlikely option.

“A district can appeal to stay in a class,” Kinzer noted, “if the Board had, we would have been the only public school to have done so.”

Changing class level to B means students involved in extra-curricular activities and sports will be competing against smaller schools. The MHSA established the numbers guideline for classification with the goal of creating a fair and competitive level.

“Larger schools have a larger talent pool,” Kinzer said. He also quoted Bigfork’s coaches who noted “we have good athletes, but we just don’t have as many as other schools.”

Class B does not have boys or girls soccer, however, Kinzer says this doesn’t mean BHS is dropping soccer, those students will continue to compete, at the class A level. Kinzer notes the class change in itself does not mean the school will loose any of its activities; rather, activity cuts would come from trimming the budget.

No other public high schools in the Flathead are class B. Bigfork’s Vikings and Valkyries will compete against teams from Eureka, Thomson Falls, Plains, Troy, and St. Ignatius. The class change will take effect at the start of the 2009-2010 school year.