The Pendleton School Board formally entered what's become a hotly debated discussion Monday night, taking a stance against a possible reclassification laid out this month by the Oregon School Activities Association.
That's the first official action by the board relating to the reclassification, said Superintendent Jon Peterson.
But officials from both the?Pendleton and Hermiston school districts have already spoken out in opposition to the plan they say leaves the two schools isolated from their athletic competition.
Letters from?Peterson and Assistant Superintendent Tricia?Baker earlier this month both took strong stances against the OSAA's idea.?Though the letters were dated before the latest version of that proposal added both The Dalles-Wahtonka High School and Hood River Valley High School back into the same league with Pendleton and Hermiston, the concerns were the same:?mounting travel costs putting a strain on dwindling budgets.
"Placement in the Central Oregon Hybrid League is not acceptable to our kids, our coaches, our parents, and our community,"?Peterson wrote.
During Thursday's meeting, he detailed a few other concerns:?students missing out on class time for lengthy road trips, and the potential hazards of making frequent bus trips down a two-lane Highway 97 with spotty cell phone service.
The previous proposal put the two Umatilla County schools in a league with a group of only central Oregon schools, putting their closest away games - besides each other - almost 200 miles away.
The latest proposal shakes out the same as the current Intermountain Conference, plus two schools:?Redmond High School and Hood River Valley.
But Peterson noted he'd like to see Pendleton and Hermiston grouped with Hood River, The Dalles and four east Portland schools, instead of central Oregon destinations.
"It is time to close the book on the IMC,"?Peterson wrote. "It no longer works for any of us!"
Baker echoed those sentiments. She cited Pendleton's budget difficulties last year, which resulted in 19 fewer staff members this year and chopped 10 days off the school calendar. The proposed arrangement, she wrote, wouldn't make sense.
"With impending further budget reductions, it will be close to impossible for Pendleton to continue to offer the current level of athletic opportunities to our students," the letter read. "It is unrealistic and grossly inadequate for the OSAA to expect our district to continue to have travel expenses so far in excess of other districts around the state."
Pendleton joins Hermiston as a vocal opponent to the so-called "Proposal #9." Hermiston High School Athletic Director Mike Kay has decried the idea, though acknowledging the addition of The Dalles and Hood River is a step in the right direction.
The OSAA committee charged with making the decision will gather for its final public meeting on the subject Monday in Wilsonville. Peterson said he, along with the current and former Pendleton High School athletic directors, plans to attend.
In other business, the board approved its goals for the 2009-10 school year. The district aims to develop and utilize an effective communication plan, improve student achievement through teachers' Professional Learning Communities, and maximize student learning given 10 fewer school days this year. District officials and board members first outlined those goals last month.