In its first varsity high school football season, Walnut Grove shared a region spot with cross-county rival Monroe Area.
Both eventually moved up to Class AAAA, where they competed the past two years, albeit in different football regions.
Now the schools are going in opposite directions — Walnut Grove is moving up next year to the Georgia High School Association’s new Class 5A while Monroe Area is heading down to the smaller Class 3A.
Walnut Grove may well get to kindle a new rivalry where it’s going, as Loganville High School also ended up in Class 5A through the latest round of reclassification.
The GHSA reclassifies schools periodically to try and keep similarly sized schools playing each other for state championships. This year the state’s sanctioning body also is looking at out-of-county student enrollment as a way of determining if some schools — particularly city schools — should be moved up due to perceived unfair advantages. An out-of-county student population of more than 3 percent was enough to put a school in danger of moving up in classification, unless that school fit in the smallest class.
Social Circle High School’s enrollment showed 11 percent of the 525 students on campus come from outside Walton County. The vast majority of those students are from Newton County.
Administrators from Social Circle went to Thomaston last week to appeal the GHSA’s numbers, saying the superintendents of the Social Circle and Newton County school systems have agreements to take students living in the overlapping districts.
The GHSA noted on its website that Social Circle won its appeal.
As part of its realignment efforts, the GHSA also created a seventh classification, Class 7A, which includes the 48 biggest schools in the state. That was to try and shorten the gap between the largest and smallest schools in the previous Class AAAAAA.
The state had four classifications into the 1950s and went to six in 2012.
The largest school in the new Class 7A will be Mill Creek of the Gwinnett County Public Schools, with 3,998 students.
Apalachee, Gainesville, Heritage (Conyers), Lanier and Winder-
Barrow out of Logan
ville’s existing football region will move up to 6A. Cedar Shoals, Clarke Central and Flowery Branch stay in 5A and Salem will drop to 4A.
Out of Walnut Grove’s region, Eagle’s Landing, Eastside and Locust Grove move up to 5A with the Warriors. Hampton will stay in 4A and Henry County will fall to 3A.
Some local sports fans may be unhappy to learn the out-of-county rule will bump Buford up to Class 5A with Loganville and Walnut Grove. Buford has 1,299 students, but 17.1 percent of them are from outside Gwinnett County.
Buford has won state football championships in seven of the past eight years. The Wolves recently beat Walnut Grove for the state softball championship.
Monroe Area will be tied for the second-largest school in Class 3A. Franklin County is the biggest, with 1,115 students. Lumpkin County and Monroe Area each have 1,114.
The Purple Hurricanes will be leaving behind their former region opponents but nearby Morgan County will be in the new Class 3A, as will Jackson County and Stone Mountain.
While Monroe Area is among the biggest schools in 3A, Social Circle is one of the smallest in 2A.
SCHS has 525 students. The smallest 2A school will be Brooks County, with 521.
Half of Social Circle’s current region rivals — Oglethorpe County, Rabun County and Union County — are staying with it in 2A. Greene County and Washington-Wilkes move down to Class A and Riverside Military’s out-of-county numbers put it into Class 4A.
George Walton’s recent rivals should stay pretty much the same in Class A, also known as the public/private class.
Out of the existing Region 8-A, Athens Academy, Athens Christian, Commerce, Hebron Christian, Lakeview Academy, Prince Avenue Christian, Providence Christian and Towns County all remain in Class A.
Schools have until noon Monday to request the right to play up in classification. The GHSA Reclassification Committee will meet at 10 a.m. Tuesday, in Thomaston, to put schools in regions.
Those regions will be posted on the GHSA website, at ghsa.net, when finalized.