DES MOINES, Iowa (WHO) — Suburban schools have dominated high school sports in Iowa for decades. Between 2009 and 2021, suburban schools won 128 straight games against Des Moines high schools.
Data shared with the Iowa High School Athletic Association shows that free and reduced students have a direct impact on the success or lack thereof of football teams across Iowa.
According to the data from the 2019-2020 season, high schools with over 80% of their population on free and reduced plans had an average winning percentage of around 20% in football while schools with just 10-20% of their students on free and reduced won at a nearly 60% rate. “If thought is put into our scheduling and we are playing teams of comparable talent and comparable situations then we will have a schedule we can compete with,” said Chad Ryan who serves as Director of Activities at Des Moines North High School.
According to the current proposed plan, only 60% of students in grades 9-to-11 receiving free or reduced lunch would count towards a school’s enrollment. The reduced enrollment number is then used to determine the class a specific school competes in. The DMPS is among the highest percentages at 76% free and reduced lunch.
The proposed calculations would drop Des Moines Lincoln from the 4th largest school to the 20th. It would drop Des Moines East from the 6th largest school to the 31st. Des Moines Roosevelt would drop from the seventh largest to the 32nd but with all remaining in the top 36 they still remain in Class 5A. Hoover is currently in 4A and would drop from the 50th largest to the 64th but remain in 4A. Currently, the only change could come with Des Moines North which would presumably drop from the 31st largest to the 53rd largest and into 4A.
Perry High School is another school that would benefit. It abruptly ended its season in Class 4A because of low numbers and fear of safety for its athletes against larger 4A schools. The Bluejays could move from 70th largest down to 91st and into Class 3A.
Ryan says the proposal is not a magic pill to cure what is ailing districts facing adversity but it gets the conversation rolling and that is what is most important to him. “I think this is a step in the right direction. I think we need to look at these things. We were very happy with our schedule this year so I think the fact that we are looking at this and whether it is a small step this time but just once you start stepping that way it opens the door for future conversation,” said Ryan.
All IHSAA member schools will get the chance to vote from December 16th through the 22nd. It must be approved by 50% of all member schools or at least 60% of the member schools that end up casting their vote. If passed it will need the Iowa Board of Education’s approval.