The landscape of Maine high school basketball could have a much different look next year, as a proposal to change from a four-class structure to five classes is making its way through the Maine Principals’ Association’s approval process.

The MPA’s Classification Committee has given approval to adding a fifth class. The proposal, which still must be approved by the Basketball Committee and then the full MPA membership, would create a “Super A” class that would include the state’s 15 largest schools – Thornton Academy, Lewiston, Bangor, Bonny Eagle, Oxford Hills, Sanford, Scarborough, Massabesic, Windham, Edward Little, Deering, Portland, South Portland, Noble and Gorham – as well as Cheverus and McAuley if they petition to play in the largest class, as they’ve done in the past.

The proposal also includes a new naming convention. In addition to Super A, which would be for schools with an enrollment of at least 825 students, the other classes and their enrollment figures would be: 2A (545 to 824), 3A (315 to 544), 4A (121 to 314) and 5A (up to 120). Current enrollment figures for basketball are 705-plus for Class A, 425-704 for Class B, 190-424 for Class C and up to 189 for Class D.

Gerry Durgin, an MPA assistant executive director and the liaison to the classification committee, said it’s still a proposal.

“It’s a work in progress,” said Durgin. “Nothing is final.”

Durgin said the next step in the approval process is to send it the proposal to the Basketball Committee for review later this month. In February, the MPA would solicit feedback from its membership. In March, the Classification Committee would review the enrollment numbers, consider petitions from schools who want to move up to a higher class, and make final changes. The proposal then would be voted on during the MPA’s spring conference in April.

Declining enrollments statewide, particularly at Eastern Maine schools, have forced the MPA to look at basketball reclassification.

“It’s a numbers issue,” said Durgin. “The majority of schools’ enrollments are declining. The majority of schools in the state have enrollments of 500 and under. There are only nine schools in the state with enrollments of 1,000 and above. At what point are you not going to have a school with an enrollment of 1,400 playing a school that has an enrollment of 600? We’re trying to create some equity.”

The Super A class would have 16 boys’ and 17 girls’ teams and would not be divided into East and West regions.

Based on current school enrollment figures, Class 2A would have 13 schools in the East and 13 in the West. Class 3A would have 18 schools in the East and 13 in the West. Class 4A would have 19 schools in the East and 19 in the West, and Class 5A would have 14 in the East and 13 in the West. The regional designations could also change from East and West to North and South to better reflect the geographical distribution of schools.

Currently, Eastern Class D has 23 schools.

“We can’t have any more without looking at an extra preliminary round. We can’t do that,” said Durgin. “Going to five classes is entirely an enrollment thing.”

Super A would mirror the lineup of teams in Class A football, with most of the schools concentrated in southern Maine.

“It’s something that has to be looked at,” Bonny Eagle boys’ coach Phil Bourassa said of the five-class proposal. “The declining enrollment numbers are so drastic. There are so many moving parts in basketball that it’s going to be really tough to organize. I get the conversation. It makes sense. But if I’m Bangor, I’m against it. The SMAA has been kind of spoiled because we’re in a locked in league.”

Bangor Athletic Director Steve Vanidestine said he would be very concerned about students’ time away from class if they had to play a Tuesday away game in Portland in a Super A class.

“We try to minimize travel time during the week,” he said.

Vanidestine also is concerned about transportation costs and travel conditions.

“Geographically, we can’t change where we’re at. We always want to play the best competition and we’re a school that travels well. The other athletic directors are great in accommodating our needs. If this happens, we’ll find some way to make it work,” he said.

Old Orchard Beach boys’ basketball coach John Regan said he didn’t know if having five classes would affect his program. The Seagulls would move from Class C to 4A.

“It’s something that could be interesting, but I don’t know if it would have a big impact on us,” he said. “Our schedule is all over the place. We have seven games against Class D teams, five against Class B teams and six games against Class C. The only Class C schools down here are Traip Academy, Sacopee Valley and Waynflete. We play each of them twice in the regular season. We don’t have enough Class C schools to have our own conference like they do in the Mountain Valley Conference. We kind of play an independent schedule already.”