A proposal to add a fourth Maine high school football class cleared an important hurdle when a Maine Principals’ Association subcommittee moved it forward Thursday.

The proposal would create classes AA, A, B and C and would take effect in 2011 when the next two-year classification cycle begins.

“It’s moving forward,” said Mike Burnham, an executive director at the MPA.

The MPA football subcommittee met for 31/2 hours Thursday, reviewing feedback from schools. Burnham said 62 of the 78 schools with football in the state — 79 percent — returned surveys the MPA mailed earlier this summer.

“About 72 percent of the schools that responded supported moving forward,” Burnham said.

The proposal is in the hands of the full football committee, which is expected to pass it on to the classification committee.

“The football committee is going to send the updated information back to the schools to review,” Burnham said. “The football committee will meet again if there is a need or if there are major changes. If there are minor changes there will be a recommendation to the classification committee.”

The classification committee is scheduled to meet the last week of September. Should the proposal keep moving forward, it would eventually come up for a spring vote before the MPA’s full membership.

Several coaches said the announcement came as little surprise.

“It’s great news,” Mt. Blue Coach Gary Parlin said. “It’s about four years too late for teams like us, but I’ve always been taught that you can’t worry about what happened yesterday.”

Added Maranacook Coach Joe Emery: “It doesn’t surprise me. In some form or fashion we were going to get four classes. Now the question is what will they entail.”

Programs will have the option to play up a class.

Maine had four football classes until 1975. Class D resumed four years later but was discontinued in 1986.

“This has been in the making for several years,” Winslow Coach Mike Siviski said. “We’ve been adding football teams to the state and I think it’s a good thing to try and make the competition equal.”