OREM — The state took another step toward adding a classification to high school sports and activities Thursday.

The Utah High School Activities Association Board of Trustees voted to move forward with a proposal that would change the state’s classification of schools from five to six classes for all sports and activities. The state moved to six classifications in football two years ago, and football will still be aligned separate from other sports and activities because fewer schools participate in football.

Bill Boyle, the BOT chairman and Region 19 representative, spoke against moving to six classifications, while Region 20 representatives said they had mixed feelings.

Most 2A and 3A representatives strongly favor the change, while 4A and 5A schools seemed to be more indifferent, except in how it might help smaller schools have a more meaningful experience.

“We want to be able to do the right thing,” said Taylorsville principal Garrett Muse. “We just want to know what the right thing is.”

Boyle suggested that the only way to accomplish six classes was to break up Region 19, which is made up of schools in the southeast corner of Utah and one charter in Price. The schools are so remote that right now they face hours long drives for most competitions.

“The devil is absolutely in the details,” he said. “It creates significant region problems. … Take a look at it and somebody find regions of 17 teams that will work in 1A.”

Region 12 representative Dale Whitlock said the six-class proposal creates parity, which is the reason they began the discussions in the first place. He called Boyle’s scenarios that placed Monument Valley and Rich in the same classification, creating one-way trips of 500 miles, “extreme” and “almost a scare tactic.”

Boyle responded, “It is a scare tactic because it scares us to death. … It is almost mind-boggling the distances involved.”

Manti principal George Henrie said he polled the schools in 2A and nine supported the move to six classes, while seven were against it. And the schools voted exactly as it would impact them.

Whitlock said the schools supporting it simply want “parity.”

Some said they should use the same logic they applied to the football change. If it works, that’s great. If not, it’s only two years.

The Region 18 representative said the “scary things” need to be dealt with after they determine “what’s best.”

In addition to the number of classifications, the issues discussed in Thursday’s meeting were whether to allow mid-alignment movement, using free and reduced lunch numbers as a factor in classifying schools and whether private and charter schools should play one classification larger than their population numbers would suggest.

An appeal from Mountain Crest High School, which was moved from 4A to 5A in the last realignment, to move down to 3A after the district’s new school opens next fall was denied.

BOT member Scott Carlson made a motion that the group adjust its guidelines to allow schools that suffer a significant drop in enrollment (40 percent or more) caused by a split in schools, to petition for a change in classification, if they do so prior to Jan. 1.

The group discussed the fact that other schools, like Lehi, had dealt with huge fluctuations in numbers without being reclassified mid-alignment. The BOT currently realigns the state every two years with the next change coming in the fall of 2017.

The BOT approved using free and reduced lunch numbers in allowing some schools to petition to move down one classification. It was a change proposed by Ogden in Wednesday night’s public hearing. Their contention was that poverty affects participation numbers, as well as the development and experience of athletes, retention of coaches and offseason training.

Schools on the bubble between classifications will be allowed to petition to go up or down first, with those schools struggling with poverty having the option to petition after that.

The group also discussed whether there should be a different way or separate region for private and charter schools, which have no traditional boundaries.

“That issue will be sent to the executive committee to discuss further,” said UHSAA director Rob Cuff.

The executive committee members will take the issue to each region and find out how communities feel about the issue and what they see as possible solutions.

The proposed alignment can be found at www.uhsaa.org/realignment. While the group has proposed six classifications, schools can’t be divided into classifications until the October 2016 enrollment numbers are released next November. Cuff said they hope to finalize the 2017-19 alignment by mid December.

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