Reclassification makes high school coaches, athletic directors and principals anxious and they’ve waited four years since the last time the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) determined new regions. Reclassification was always a two-year process until 2016 when reclassification turned into a four-year cycle. Reclassification will now revert to two-year cycles as rapid growth in certain areas of Georgia make waiting four years impractical.
The full GHSA executive committee met on September 30 and formalized the blueprint for reclassification. Nothing will be final until late January but there are some tweaks in how the process will unfold. There was strong speculation that there would be only six classes instead of the current seven, but that idea was shot down by the membership. Complaints from those who don’t like small regions that comes with seven classes ultimately fell on deaf ears, perhaps because that is not a problem for Metro Atlanta schools.
The most contentious point surrounding reclassification is always open enrollment private schools and city school systems versus closed enrollment, mostly rural, county school systems. The root of that issue is that rural Georgia public schools depend so heavily on property taxes and property owners dislike subsidizing the education of children from another county, so most systems disallow out-of-county students. Count McDuffie among that group.
Open enrollment offers the inherent opportunity to recruit student-athletes from neighboring counties. This gives those schools a huge competitive advantage, i.e., all-stars playing against hometown kids. It is only logical that private schools in Augusta, Savannah or Macon with open enrollment have a huge advantage over a Warren County or Lincoln County. City schools, like Cartersville and Buford, seldom limit themselves to a geographic boundary. They need the numbers to enhance their Full Time Enrollment (FTE) based state funding.
The GHSA executive committee voted to solve the issue of private schools by dividing the Class A private and public schools into entirely separate regions. They have had separate playoff brackets since 2012 but private and public schools were still together in regions. Playing each other directly impacted the power ratings that were used to seed playoffs. Public and private schools can still play one another in the regular season if they so choose, but arbitrary power ratings will no longer be necessary.
For the handful of larger private schools like Marist, St. Pius, Woodward Academy and Westminster and any open enrollment public schools, out-of-county students will count twice in the enrollment figures used by the GHSA to put schools into a classification. Children of public school teachers and employees are permitted by state law to attend school with their parents across county lines. They, along with active duty military dependents, will be exempt from this 2.0 multiplier. The attendance zone for private and charter schools will match that of the public school in that zone. This plan was approved by a 66-1 executive committee vote.
In an attempt to remove politics from the realignment process, the committee voted unanimously for the GHSA office staff to place schools into regions rather than the 13-member reclassification committee. Members of the reclassification committee have their own school’s interests to consider, whereas the office staff does not. The reclassification committee will then approve the staff’s plan before the entire executive committee will be asked to ratify the final reclassification plan. Only then can schedules be formalized for 2020-21 and 2021-22.
The GHSA has yet to receive official public school FTE numbers from the state department of education so anything about new regions for any schools currently is pure speculation. That won’t prevent insecure coaches from praying for an easy region. Secure coaches won’t worry about what they can’t control. They’ll be too busy preparing their programs to deal with whatever region has been dealt to them.
Gene Walker can be at firstname.lastname@example.org.