Delay with starting spring sports season could cause graduation ceremony conflict

Sunnyside High School Principal Dennis Birr has long been an advocate of the efforts of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA). But at the December Sunnyside School Board meeting, Birr made his feelings known about the changes WIAA enacted regarding the spring sports season.

The WIAA executive board of directors changed the starting and ending dates of the spring sports season. The reason, said Birr, was to eliminate the overlap the start of spring sports usually has with State basketball tournaments. The change by the WIAA board now means the spring sports season will start one week later, thus ending one week later than it usually does. This means that spring State tournaments will be going on during Sunnyside's weekend of graduation, said Birr.

"It absolutely messed up graduation on the east side," said Birr.

Sunnyside School District Superintendent Dr. Rick Cole said the WIAA enacted the changes without the complete input of the membership, which consists of schools across the state. Cole said by changing the spring season by one week it helps out the west side schools, which generally begin their school year after Labor Day, so there will be no effect on the graduation dates of the west side schools.

Birr said the WIAA has heard from numerous schools that are not in favor of the changes. The WIAA board opted to give all schools a chance to provide input, giving each a ballot to be turned in by Dec. 22. The WIAA has said it will consider all the ballots in redeciding whether to change the starting date for spring sports at its January meeting. But, Birr said, it looks as if the schools are stuck with the current WIAA plans to begin spring sports a week later.

"I think it is a really poor decision on their (WIAA) part," said Birr.

Sunnyside school board members unanimously agreed to cast the district's ballot against the change.

Birr said the effect of the change is that some schools have to change their graduation dates. He said in Sunnyside, the WIAA's decision could affect between 4,000 and 5,000 people if the district has to change Sunnyside's graduation date.

Birr added that Sunnyside has a chance of qualifying several teams for the postseason, most likely boys soccer and tennis for the State tournaments.

Birr said if a student athlete in Sunnyside qualifies for a State tournament, the district will do all it can to ensure the student athletes are part of graduation.



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