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VHSL committee proposes dropping from 6 classes to 4

Kevin Mays • Jun 23, 2020 at 6:54 PM

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — A VHSL ad hoc committee on Tuesday approved a recommendation that the league change its current structure from six classifications to four beginning with the 2023-24 school year, and not everyone is happy about it.

The committee voted 14-6 with four abstentions to recommend to the VHSL Alignment Committee a plan that calls for compressing the current six-class system.

The plan does not have much support either locally or within Class 2 schools across the commonwealth.

“Region 2D is not in favor of it,” Virginia High athletic director Brad Harper said. “It does not benefit us in any sport at the state level.”

Under the proposal, the VHSL would still use a school’s average daily membership number to decide its classification. Instead of using the ADM numbers for grades 9-12, however, only grades 9-11 would be counted.

Schools with enrollments of 375 or below would be in Class 1; 376-751 in Class 2; 752-1199 in Class 3; and 1,200 and above in Class 4.

Currently, Class 1 schools have enrollments of 475 or fewer. The remaining classifications do not have a specific enrollment cutoff. Instead, classes 2-6 are divided evenly among the five.

Harper said Class 2 schools seem to lose the most in “competitive balance” under the proposal. He points to current Class 3 powerhouses like Liberty Christian Academy, George Mason and Maggie Walker among those that would drop to Class 2 if the proposal gets approval first from the Alignment Committee and then from the Executive Committee.

The alignment in Southwest Virginia would also be skewed for the postseason, particularly in Class 2.

Under the proposal, schools would compete in districts during the regular season, as they do now, and districts could continue to include schools from different classifications for regular-season play.

For the postseason, each region would be divided into two sections, and sectional champions would advance to the state quarterfinals.

Using current ADM numbers, which Harper and VHSL Associate Director Tom Dolan agree will change when the 2021-22 numbers are released, only four schools — Virginia High, Tazewell, Marion and Richlands, all current members of the Southwest District — would be in Region 2D Section 1. Region 2D Section 2 would be composed of the same schools that make up the current Mountain 7 District: Gate City, Union, Wise Central, Abingdon, Lee High, Ridgeview and John Battle.

Two current Southwest District and Class 2 schools, Lebanon and Graham, would fall into Class 1 under the proposal.

Harper said that creates further questions for the Southwest District and its schools, including it becoming a combined district with Class 1 and Class 2 schools.

OTHER CHANGES

The proposal also allows for schools to appeal to play up or down in classification.

Examples given in the proposal as reasons a school might appeal to move down in classification were geography (a school is a geographic anomaly or has physical obstacles such as bridges and tunnels that make remaining in the assigned classification problematic); school location (providing challenges and hardships for miles traveled); and miscellaneous (number of participating athletes in a school).

WHAT’S NEXT?

The proposal has obstacles to clear before it becomes official.

The plan will be presented to the VHSL Alignment Committee for its input on July 29. Ultimate approval must come from the Executive Committee, Dolan said.

Even though the plan would not go into effect until the fall of 2023, Dolan said he hopes the Executive Committee will take action at its next two meetings so schools and regions can begin to make plans for changes that would be needed should the proposal be approved.

Dolan said he hopes the plan will be presented for first vote by the Executive Committee at its September meeting. The committee then make its final vote at its meeting in February.

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