Belen, LL to appeal NMAA redistricting

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Administrators from Belen and Los Lunas schools expect the New Mexico Activities Association to place the three Valencia County high schools into a district with schools from Doña Ana County in the association's new alignment scheme.

The administrators do not like the move and plan to ask the NMAA to remedy that on Thursday, Dec. 5, when the association is set to hear appeals to the new arrangement.

The NMAA released its plan to realign the state's six athletic divisions from its current setup ranging from Class 5A to Class B to Class 6A to Class A. The two county school districts have no issue with that plan, a largely cosmetic transformation of the organization's school classification from Class 4A to Class 5A.

The issue is the NMAA's plan to move Belen High School, Los Lunas High School and Valencia High School from a nearby district that includes schools from Gallup and Grants to a far-flung league that includes Las Cruces Centennial, Santa Teresa and Chaparral High schools, all located at the southern edge of the state for the next two school years.

"Our rationale for the appeal is the safety and academic well being of our student athletes," said Los Lunas Schools Athletic Director Wilson Holland, who said he discussed the appeal with several school officials, including Board of Education President Charles Tabet before filing the appeal. "We've had a lot of communication about it from school board members, parents and teachers."

Holland said he contacted the NMAA on Friday about the school district's intention to appeal the placement into District 3-5A and is in the process of preparing the 10-minute appeal presentation. That appeal will center on moving Los Lunas and Valencia not south but north, into District 5-5A, which is slated to include metro area schools Albuquerque Academy, St. Pius X and Moriarty.

On Tuesday, Belen Superintendent Ron Marquez told the board that due to a Monday deadline, he had "taken the liberty" of contacting the NMAA that day to inform them of an appeal.

Marquez said he would consult with Jason Baca, the district's athletic director, and Belen High School Principal Rodney Wright to develop the district's appeal, which also suggests moving Belen into the metro-area district.

"Right now with Belen athletics, we're prepared to do what we have to do for the benefit of our student athletes," said Baca. "With the direction of the board and the guidance of the superintendent, we will move forward with the appeal process."

Baca told the board he had contacted administrators from Santa Teresa and Chaparral high schools and they too were filing an appeal. All five schools' appeals are largely centered on travel distances, costs and the negative impact of travel — up to six hours round trip — on the academics of their athletes.

Baca also said that Deming High School, slated to move up to Class 6A from 5A next year, is also appealing that decision, which could impact the placement of the county schools.

If Deming is allowed to remain in the former Class 4A with Santa Teresa and Chaparral and the county schools, they could be placed in District 3-5A with the southern New Mexico schools, a possibility that was brought up both by Marquez and Baca in the board meeting.

Baca said a decision on the appeal would likely come within a few weeks of the Dec. 5 meeting in Albuquerque.