December 04, 2001 11:00 pm

By Pat Perkins

Observer Staff Writer

Wallowa High School will compete next year at the Class 1A level, but Josephs attempts to move down have been rebuffed by the Oregon School Activities Association.

The two Wallowa County schools are close in enrollment, but Joseph is two students above the cutoff for Class 2A while Wallowa is six below.

We had asked that they look at our projected enrollment down the road, Joseph High School Athletic Director Rhonda Shirley said.

Joseph is forecasting declining enrollment over the next four years, the period for which the OSAAs executive board approved Monday its regular district realignment plan.

The realignment is largely based on an average daily attendance established in June.

Shirley testified at a redistricting committee meeting in October and Joseph Superintendent Rich Graham and football coach Rusty Eschler testified Monday.

The decision was already made, Shirley said.

The OSAA redistricting committee made its final recommendations after the October meeting. Those recommendations did not include Joseph in the Class 1A ranks.

What we can do is petition again next December and ask that we move down, Shirley said.

Wallowa moved from the Class 1A Old Oregon League to the Class 2A Wapiti League in the fall of 1998, and that move was based on a June 1997 attendance figure of 112, which was barely above the cutoff of 110.

Wallowas enrollment was 125 in 2000 but dropped to 109 in June. Athletic Director Warren Wilson said grades nine through 12 had 94 students as of Tuesday.

Shirley said Josephs enrollment as of Tuesday was at 118.

Our classes coming through fifth through eighth grades right now are smaller, she said.

Wallowa prepared for the drop back to 1A this year by playing an independent eight-man football schedule. The Cougars were not eligible for the playoffs but finished 4-4.

Shirley said the school has talked about doing the same thing but that it probably would not happen until the 2003 season.

Wallowa will rejoin local schools Cove and Powder Valley in the Old Oregon League.

With Wallowa moving out, the Wapiti League will remain with eight teams because Grant Union is dropping from the Greater Oregon League. The Prospectors last played in the Wapiti in the 1993-94 school year before moving up to the Greater Oregon.

Other schools dropping to 1A include Mapleton and McKenzie. The westside Casco League will be split in two and a fifth district will be formed at the 1A level.

In addition to Grant Union, five schools are dropping to 2A: Bandon, Myrtle Point, Reedsport, Clatskanie and Waldport.

Gladstone and North Bend will move from 4A to 3A.

The final realignment is available at