Share This Page

Guido: A tale of 2 school districts

| Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013, 12:41 a.m.
Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch
Highlands' Elijah Jackson (28) runs the ball at Mars' Jake Rosswog (13) during the first half on Friday, Sept. 20, 2013, at Golden Rams Stadium in Harrison Township.

While watching last Friday's Highlands-Mars showdown Tuesday, it presented a contrast in how those two school districts have changed in the last 30 years.

During the 1983-84 school year, Highlands was the second-smallest Class AAAA football school, but still the 27th-largest school in the WPIAL. This year, Highlands is the smallest Class AAA school and ranks 52nd among WPIAL football schools.

As for Mars, in 1983-84 the school had 587 students, played in the Class AA Allegheny Conference, and was the 79th-largest WPIAL school. This year, Mars has 763 students and is a Class AAA school, 42nd in size.

One reason for the shift is the 1984 high school graduating classes were pretty much the final vestige of the Baby Boom era.

Also in Western Pennsylvania, the collapse of heavy industry was happening before our eyes, and many parents with school-aged children were moving to other parts of the country where employment was abundant. Families who stayed had a lower birth rate.

Enrollment at many WPIAL schools, however, continues to plummet.

During the 1976-77 school year, Penn Hills had 3,845 students in the top three grades. People I know who went to Penn Hills at the time have told me the school was so huge that you would sit next to a person on graduation night that you had never seen. Now, Penn Hills has 1,377 students.

One retired Penn Hills teacher told me when he started in the school district in 1964, there were 18 buildings. Soon, there will be three.

The only schools seeing enrollment increases are those where farms have been turned into housing subdivisions such as Mars, Seneca Valley, Penn-Trafford, Peters Township, South Fayette and several others.

In 1983-84, Canon-McMillan was the 22nd-largest WPIAL football school. Now, with all the Marcellus shale-related development in Cecil Township, Canon-Mac is 14th.

Here are some other items related to enrollment:

• The largest high school in the WPIAL is North Allegheny with 2,063 students (1,078 boys and 985 girls). Butler was the biggest for many years.

• The smallest football high school is Geibel with 89 students (46 boys and 43 girls).

• The largest high school in the state, by far, is Reading with 4,255 students in the top three grades.

• Prior to the early 1990s, the PIAA considered the school population with boys and girls totals combined to classify football schools. Now, each gender is considered separately for classification purposes.

• Plum is the only local school to have played football in all four classifications over the years.

• In 1989, Pine-Richland played Class A football. Nineteen years later, in 2008, Pine-Richland was a Class AAAA school.

George Guido is a Valley News Dispatch scholastic sports correspondent. His column appears Wednesdays.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.