Pending school realignments aim for convenience, rivalries

Morning Sentinel (Waterville, ME) - Tuesday, March 27, 2001
Some people might look at the most recent census figures and think of revising the state political map for legislative and Congressional redistricting. 

The Maine Principals' Association looks at the same information - or close to it - and thinks of realigning the state for athletic purposes. 

Moving schools from one regional designation to another has happened before, and it nearly always involved teams in central Maine as school populations - the major determinant in classifications - have increased in the western and southern areas and remained stagnant or declined in the northern and eastern sections of the state. 

The latest plan for shifts would divide the state into four regions -Northeast, Southeast. Northwest and Southwest in classes "A", "B" and C." The proposal would simultaneously bring unity and inconvenience to many area schools. 

While the plan would mean little to the Mountain Valley Conference schools or the existing western Class "D" schools, the biggest change would place the entire Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference in the east for basketball. 

For teams such as Morse (Bath), Oxford Hills (South Paris), Brunswick and Mt. Ararat (Topsham), the change would mean more traveling for the regional tournament. Rather than heading to Portland upon qualifying for the quarterfinals, teams from those schools would go instead to Bangor. 

Supposedly, amending the regional designations could result in more traveling for the big tournament, but should save on travel time and expense in preliminary play-off rounds by assuring games closer to home. 

It is also expected to build upon existing rivalries within the Kennebec conference, and expand them to include schools such as Bangor, Brewer, Hampden Academy, Presque Isle and Old Town. 

Some of that east-west interchange has already occurred in sports such as tennis and ice hockey. Basketball, though, continues to draw the most fan interest and have the greatest financial impact and return. 

Trying to maintain a competitive balance among the more - and less -populated areas of the state is a challenge to the principals' association. The plan under consideration - and nearly certain to be adopted for a trial run - is not the last word in the on-going effort, only the most recent. It holds promise, however, and on that score alone, should be approved.