Apr 26, 2017 - By Daniel Bendtsen, Staff WriterThe basketball, volleyball and track teams of Riverton High School are set to go back into the 4-A classification after a Tuesday vote by the Wyoming High School Activities Association.
Unless School District 25's enrollment drops drastically in the next few months,RHS will be moved back into 4-A beginning in fall 2018.
Superintendent Terry Snyder said he was "really discouraged" by that decision, especially because there's great "disparities between enrollments" between Riverton and the three other schools included in Riverton's proposed conference.
That conference would include Kelly Walsh High School, Natrona County High School and Rock Springs High School. Each dwarfs Riverton, and both Kelly Walsh and Natrona have easily more than double the students of Riverton, which currently has an enrollment of 734.
"This puts us at a tremendous disadvantage ... year in and year out," Snyder said.
Riverton won the Class 3-A state championship in boys basketball last month in its first year in Class 3-A. It's the the first-ever state basketball title for the school.
Football would remain in Class 3-A under the plan. Snyder said "being in two different classes makes it harder for Riverton to have rivalries."
The reclassification also wold mean Riverton needs to field four different basketball teams: freshman, sophomore, junior varsity and varsity.
"When you have 1,900 kids, having four teams is no big deal," Snyder said. "You almost have to in order to give them playing time. For us, it's a stretch."
Riverton recently announced it would reduce the number of assistant coaching positions to account for a decline in revenue. Snyder said he worried the reclassification requiring more teams would mean the district will need to re-hire coaches it can't afford.
"I don't even know how we're going to do that, but we have to or else we aren't going to be competitive," he said.
Cody High School, which also is set to be bumped back to 4-A, also protested Tuesday's decision. Its proposed conference would pit Cody against Sheridan High School and Gillette's two high schools (Thunder Basin High School opens this fall).
Other proposed conferences in the state would have much more equity among their enrollments. One conference would include Evanston, Green River, Jackson and Star Valley, which all have enrollments within 200 students of each other.
Another conference would include just Cheyenne and Laramie's high schools, resulting in an average travel time of 25 miles for that conference. Riverton's conference, on the other hand, would have an average travel time of 172 miles.
Currently, the 4-A class has 12 schools, the 3-A class has 16, 2-A has 20 and 1-A carries the rest.
Under the new plan, the top three classes each would have 16 schools, and the rest will be 1-A.
WHSAA, which approved the move by a vote of 13-4, believes the consolidation of schools to the top-tier classes will decrease mileage and costs.
Snyder said, however, that he doesn't "believe there's good evidence" that costs will be decreased. On Tuesday, he encouraged the WHSAA to delay the decision while collecting more data.
Even if move does save money, Snyder said it's "the wrong trend for us as a state" to be making classification decisions based on money, not equity for students.
Snyder and a few other school administrators had proposed a five-class system that he said he would improve the parity among competing teams.
Get your copy of The Ranger online, every day! If you are a current print subscriber and want to also access dailyranger.com online (there is nothing more to purchase) including being able to download The Mining and Energy Edition, click here. Looking to start a new online subscription to dailyranger.com (even if it is for just one day)? Access our secure SSL encrypted server and start your subscription now by clicking here.