PIAA delays release of updated enrollment numbers to fix vo-tech issue

Wednesday, December 8, 2021 | 7:42 PM

The PIAA delayed the release of its updated enrollment numbers for the 2022-23 and 2023-24 sports seasons until January after discovering some school districts used inconsistent methods for counting their vo-tech students.

New numbers were expected to be approved Wednesday by the PIAA board, giving schools their first look at realigned classifications for the next two years. Instead, the board decided to give schools until Dec. 15 to fix those vo-tech numbers, said PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi.

The vo-tech question was brought to the PIAA’s attention several weeks ago, but the prevalence of the errors wasn’t known until just recently. Schools will receive an email Thursday from the PIAA explaining the correct process.

“There was a whole hodgepodge of different ways or manners in which people counted their vo-tech kids, and a lot of times they created mistakes,” Lombardi said. “We thought it was maybe only in one area (of the state). But once the board met and started speaking about it, they realized it’s pretty much a statewide issue. We wanted to give it our best effort to make sure they’re correct.”

When tabulating enrollment, the PIAA counts students in grades 9, 10 and 11.

Only 10% of students attending an alternative education option such as a vocational-technical school, cyber charter school or home school are counted toward a school’s total. Those students are typically eligible to play athletics at their home district, assuming the alternate school doesn’t offer athletics.

Some schools counted vo-tech students as full-time attendees when submitting numbers to the PIAA.

“That was one mistake, and there was a myriad of others as well,” Lombardi said. “From the 12 (PIAA) districts, we heard at least 12 different versions.”

Amending the vo-tech numbers has the potential to change a team’s classification — up or down — for the next two school years. The PIAA won’t know the impact until all schools are accounted for.

“Even though they only count 10%, it could,” Lombardi said. “Let’s take a pause, have them resubmit properly and we’ll go from there.”

The PIAA intends to extend the deadline for schools to voluntary “play up” into a higher classification to Jan. 5. That means new classifications won’t be finalized by the PIAA board until next month.

Chris Harlan is a TribLive reporter covering sports. He joined the Trib in 2009 after seven years as a reporter at the Beaver County Times. He can be reached at charlan@triblive.com.

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