Come with your ideas written on a piece of butcher paper, and we’ll stick them on the wall and discuss them.
That’s how Olympia School District athletic director Jeff Carpenter anticipates Tuesday’s meeting of the Class 3A West Central District schools to set up.
All 15 of the 3A schools slated to join the WCD for the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association’s newly implemented four-year cycle, which begins with the 2016-2017 school year, will have representation.
Those schools are Bethel, Bonney Lake, Central Kitsap, Gig Harbor, Lakes, Lincoln, Mt. Tahoma, North Thurston, Peninsula, Shelton, Spanaway Lake, Stadium, Timberline, Wilson and Yelm.
Capital — which petitioned to leave the WCD and was accepted to Southwest District 4 on Jan. 21 — will also re-enter the conversation. Capital planned to join the 3A Greater St. Helens League after it was rejected from the 3A South Puget Sound League.
Administrators cited stability and lack of sub-varsity competition as main reasons for wanting to leave the 3A Narrows, which is the league Capital currently competes in.
Carpenter said Capital was invited by the WCD to join the discussion.
“They said, ‘Well, now the possibility is open to do something else if the 16 of you can agree, so do you want to come back to the table and talk?’ ” Carpenter said.
He will represent Capital at Tuesday’s meeting in Tacoma.
The 16 schools were instructed by the WCD to create a realignment proposal by 4 p.m. on Feb. 3 after the district did not grant or deny the appeals of Central Kitsap, Shelton and the four Tacoma schools on Wednesday to join the 3A SPSL.
“There was valid concern on both sides of the appeal that led (the district) to believe that, for all of the schools that are members of the West Central District, that they really need to sit down together and work through this situation,” Shelton athletic director Jim Judson said.
Now everyone’s in uncharted territory.
“The things that have happened during this classification period with all of the opt-ups and appeals and denials and acceptances — this stuff was never anticipated,” North Thurston School District athletic director Rich Yelenich said. “It’s never happened before.”
Plenty of alignment scenarios will likely be presented.
Will there be two leagues, or one league with multiple divisions? Will 16 schools be members, or will 15 schools be members? What is the best way to divide the schools?
“I think we’re going to go in, have 16 different schools represented in this meeting, and we’re going to take away labels and names,” Yelenich said. “It’s not going to be Narrows this or SPSL that. It’s going to be, we’ve got 16 schools, let’s figure out how we’re going to group ourselves and move on from there.”
One consistent concern has been travel time.
“If it were to have gone as it was appearing to be headed with the four Tacoma schools and CK, our closest competition is an hour away,” Judson said. “With North Thurston and Timberline and Yelm being a part of this (16-school) discussion, we’re in a position of having an opportunity to play closer to home.
“So that’s really important to me, and regardless of what the configuration of alignment looks like, we would receive that benefit.”
Closer travel is one reason the meeting has piqued Capital’s interest. If it joined the 3A GSHL, its shortest round trip would be about 220 miles. If it joined a league that included any of the 15 WCD schools, its longest possible round trip would be about 120 miles.
“The league down there, the schools we’re dealing with and the staff are tremendous, they’re great people,” Carpenter said. “And the teams are competitive with us and offer all different levels. They’re willing to do flexible scheduling for their benefit and ours for travel, but we still have to travel. And that’s the issue.”
Capital athletic director Steve Bellande is currently slated to meet with the 3A GSHL on Wednesday to discuss scheduling. The league drew up a football schedule at its meeting earlier this week, which included Capital.
“It’s not on the back burner — it’s on a parallel burner,” Carpenter said. “I talked to them down there and said, ‘Here’s the process we’re going through, and we’ll know Tuesday.’”
If Capital did elect to join a league in the WCD, it would have to go through an appeals process with WIAA to exit District 4 and rejoin the WCD.