Shannon Byron

Monroe Area’s Shannon Byron takes the helmet off a Jefferson ballcarrier during the teams’ region meeting Friday night, Oct. 19, 2018, in Jefferson, Ga.

Reclassification is always a touchy subject for local schools, but when the Georgia High School Association goes through its reclassification process this spring, there could be some monumental shifts in the competitive balance in each classification.

The GHSA executive committee recently approved a proposal to increase the multiplier for out-of-district students to 3.0 from 2.0 with a 56-15 vote in favor of the move.

“The key was to try to find something that would be evenly applied to all schools,” Fulton County director of athletics Stephen Craft told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “The multiplier counts the same for all schools and that will help us even out the playing field when it comes to the overall success of these athletic programs.”

The purpose of the multiplier is to try and balance out where city and private schools have the ability to bring students in from out of their designated attendance zone. Many public school coaches and administrators through the state believe that ability to bring in students gives city and private schools an unfair advantage when it comes to sports.

Typically schools are reclassified every two years, moving up or down a classification based on full-time equivalent enrollment or FTE. The GHSA experimented with four-year reclassification cycles before from 2016-17 through 2019-20, but voted to go back to the two-year reclassification cycle beginning last year. Class 7A schools typically are those with 2,000 students or more while Class A schools are usually 550 students or fewer. Classes in between are divided, with roughly the same number of schools in each.

Earlier this year the GHSA floated the idea of maintaining the current regions through the 2023-24 school year because officials believed changes in school attendance due to COVID-19 could throw off the reclassification process. However, officials reversed course and elected to move forward with the reclassification process.

Locally, most schools won’t be directly affected by the new multiplier.

Part of the new proposal is that the multiplier will not be applied to schools in Class A, defined as schools with fewer than 550 students, meaning George Walton Academy and Loganville Christian Academy likely would stay put in Class A Private. Social Circle is also likely to stay in Class A Public, but more on that below.

“We addressed that situation and it seems to be working,” GHSA President Glenn White said of not applying the multiplier to Class A. “We’re not going to bother that.”

As for Loganville, Monroe Area and Walnut Grove, they’ll likely be staying put as well, as the number of out-of-district students at each school is less than 10% as of the last FTE count in 2019. However, the latest FTE numbers won’t be available until the end of October.

The current region alignments have Loganville and Walnut Grove in Region 8-AAAAA, Monroe Area in Region 8-AAA, Social Circle in Region 8-A Public and George Walton and Loganville Christian in Region 8-A Private.

Social Circle showed a FTE count of 554 during the last reclassification cycle in 2020 with 83 of those 554 being out-of-district students, which initially placed the Redskins in Class AA. However, after an appeal to the GHSA, Social Circle was allowed to drop down to Class A Public.

Two years ago, the GHSA approved 17 of the 24 appeals to play in a lower classification, including Social Circle’s. A similar scenario is likely to play out during this reclassification cycle.

Loganville, the largest school in the county, checked in with 1,682 students, 44 of which were from out of zone.

Walnut Grove barely made the cut for Class AAAAA, reporting 1,363 students with 81 being out of zone. Early projections say the Warriors could end up moving back down to Class AAAA.

Monroe Area was right in the middle of Class AAA with 1,069 students, only 24 of which are from out of zone.

The biggest shakeup came in Class A, where the GHSA completely split public and private schools into 16 different regions, eight for public and eight for private. The move left GWA and LCA in a region with just three other teams in Prince Avenue, Athens Academy and Athens Christian. GWA’s reported student population for high school was 293 with 193 being out of zone. Loganville Christian’s reported high school student population was 208 with 156 out-of-district students.

Going off the FTE numbers from the last reclassification cycle, Georgia High School Football Daily projected which schools could face a jump due to their out-of-district enrollment. The results showed Winder Barrow and Habersham Central could be bumped down from Class AAAAAA to Class AAAAA while Flowery Branch and Jefferson get bumped up from Class AAAA to AAAAA. All of those schools have been in regions with local teams in the past decade and with some likely winding up in Region 8-AAAAA with Loganville.

Brett Fowler is the sports editor of The Walton Tribune. He is a 2016 graduate of the University of North Georgia and a 2010 graduate of Monroe Area High School. Brett has been covering Walton County sports since 2011.

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