A New Playing Field: Kerr competes as a 5A school

A two-hour ride to the school, a series of performances, then a waiting period so the judges could make their selection, then an award ceremony, and by the time they arrived home it was 1:30 A.M. A whole day spent at UIL One-Act Play competition, in which four hours were devoted to traveling to and from the site of the competition. Not to mention the days beforehand when theatre students went to the location to rehearse their piece.

According to theater teacher Julie Ryan, these long trips tired students, leaving them with little energy to compete in the One-Act Play. 

“It is usually a five hour trip with 90 minutes dedicated to rehearsal,” Ryan said. “This is the same on the day of the performance, except the day is even longer.”

But as a school classified as 4A, Kerr had little choice: schools in that division are often 30 miles or more from Kerr, while most schools in the immediate area are classified as 5A. 

The long trips to district competition are now a thing of the past: for the next two years, Kerr will be categorized as a 5A school. The decision was made this past May, when the University Interscholastic League did its bi-annual reclassification of Texas public schools and conferences.

Schools are placed in conferences based on the student population: those with populations between 99-199 are categorized as 1A; 200-449 as 2A; 450-1040 as 3A; 1005-2089 as 4A; 2090 and higher as 5A.

Based on student population, Kerr should be a 3A school, but because of its application and selection process, the campus had always been required to compete at a higher level. But according to the UIL constitution, subchapter one in section 351, schools are “assigned to a conference upon the basis of the enrollment of the school in its member school district having the largest enrollment.” This year, strict enforcement of this clause means that Kerr will compete in 5A with Hastings, Elsik and Taylor high schools, each of which have more than 3,000 students, as well as schools from Aldine ISD.

The change to 5A effects each department differently. According to orchestra teacher Cynthia King, competition will be difficult for the music department.

“Choir and Band are required to play at a harder music level,” King said, “whereas Orchestra has played at the 5A level and have experience. The major problem that each group faces is the sight-reading competition.”

While the music department scrambles to create an updated curriculum to fulfill the requirements, UIL coordinator Steve Bolting feels that the change should not be a problem for academic contests if the students begin to practice early.

“I don’t think we need to be intimidated by the change,” Bolting said. “If we get everyone practicing early, before and during winter break, than it shouldn’t be a problem.”

Other organizations such as Future Business Leaders of America and the Art department will not be affected by the change because they do not compete based on UIL classifications.

According to Ryan, Kerr will be able to compete with larger local schools with district support.

“We’re excited,” said Ryan. “We have the ability to compete on a level that will allow us to have higher access and much opportunity. I think the biggest thing that artistic and academic competitions need is to have district support so we can be able to compete with our peers and allow Kerr to be seen and critiqued.”