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More area schools leaning toward 'yes' vote on 3-class system

It's guaranteed that any whiff of change to how North Dakota high school sports work will spark plenty of debate. A proposal to implement three classes for the North Dakota High School Activities Association isn't any different. Once again, anoth...

It's guaranteed that any whiff of change to how North Dakota high school sports work will spark plenty of debate.

A proposal to implement three classes for the North Dakota High School Activities Association isn't any different. Once again, another three-class plan comes up for a vote during the NDHSAA's General Assembly on Thursday in Bismarck.

The plan would move existing Class A schools -- those with enrollments over 400 -- to a new Class AA, while the schools with the next 40 highest enrollments would be in Class A. The rest would be in Class B.

"What we like to give our kids is give them opportunity one time to go to state," New England athletic director Daryl Jung said.

What's different with this three-class proposal compared to past plan's is that there still would be two state tournaments for boys and girls basketball, and volleyball. Class AA would have a separate tournament, while Class A and Class B would combine for another. Four tournament berths would be reserved for both Class A and Class B.

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The plan would not affect football, which operates under a four-class system.

As expected, smaller schools in the area, which often don't consistently reach the state tournament, are for the plan.

The larger schools in what is now Class B are pretty much for the status quo.

Dickinson High, which wouldn't be affected by the plan either way, is sitting on the fence.

"We're stuck in the middle," Dickinson High activities director Mark Rerick said. "Whether it goes three-class or two-class, it affects us in similar ways. What we're trying to decide is how the vote affects the Class B schools around us."

Dickinson Trinity seems dead-set to vote no on the plan, with activities director Rick Gordon citing a couple of factors.

"Travel is 90 percent of it," Gordon said. "We'd be in the same situation in basketball as we are in football. You're going to have three different climates to drive through in the wintertime. It's just not safe."

In addition, Gordon said Trinity administrators aren't in favor of counting its students, as well as other private school students around the state, at a higher ratio than public schools.

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Private school students would each be counted as 1.4 students for realignment purposes. Gordon said the reasoning behind that is some believe that private schools have a broader base to draw from.

"It's invalid," Gordon said.

Gordon said open enrollment means larger public schools have a large area to draw from as well.

Other Region 7 schools whose officials say they are leaning toward voting no are Beach, Bowman County, Hazen and Killdeer.

Beach administrators are recommending its school board approve a no vote in a meeting tonight, said activities director Brandt Gaugler.

"It's not really a three-class system without three state tournaments," Gaugler said of one of the reasons why he's recommending a no vote.

South Heart principal and activities director Guy Fridley wouldn't divulge his school's stance. South Heart is in a co-op agreement with Belfield and compete as the Heart River Cougars.

"We're leaning one way, but not sure what we're doing yet," Fridley said.

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Fridley said one of the weaknesses of the plan is that it isn't a real three-class system.

"If it's a three-class system, make it a true three-class system," Fridley said.

Region 7 schools whose officials say they are in favor for the plan include Beulah, Glen Ullin, Hebron, Hettinger, Mott-Regent, New England, Scranton and Richardton-Taylor.

Administrators at the smaller schools say they want a better chance at getting to state tournaments.

"I don't know if it's the main reason, but it's about giving kids more opportunity," Richardton-Taylor athletic director Travis Olson said.

Hettinger principal and athletic director Kevin Morast said the tournament issue is a big one for the school as well.

"We're leaning toward it," Morast said. "We just want the kids knowing they have a chance to go, which they really don't now."

Even if the proposal doesn't pass this time around, Jung said doing nothing won't work in the long run.

"It's never going to go away and they are going to have to do something sometime," Jung said.

Where they stand

On Thursday, the North Dakota High School Activities Association's General Assembly will vote on the latest three-class proposal for basketball and volleyball. This is how area school officials said they are leaning toward voting:

Leaning Yes: Beulah, Glen Ullin, Hebron, Hettinger, Mott-Regent, New England, Scranton and Richardton-Taylor.

Leaning No: Dickinson Trinity, Beach, Bowman County, Hazen and Killdeer.

Undecided/no answer: Dickinson High, South Heart

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