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Virginia High School League eyes sweeping changes

The Virginia High School League is looking to make sweeping changes, moving from three classifications to six, and shaking up district alignments beginning with the 2013-2014 school year.

An ad hoc VHSL task force on Wednesday released information from a December 19 meeting that outlines a proposed six classification system in what would become the first major realignment of VHSL schools since 1970, when the current three-classification system was adopted.

The plan will be presented to the VHSL Executive Committee on February 22 with approval targeted for April.

According to information released by the VHSL, the proposal includes the following:

The creation of six divisions.

A ceiling of 475 students in grades nine through 12 for the smallest division, with the number based on March 30,2012 enrollment figures.

w Dividing the remaining schools for the five larger classification divisions into equal fifths and not allowing schools to choose to “play up” in a higher classification.

A directive to the VHSL Redistricting and Reclassification Committee to place schools in districts based upon “balance, geography and preferences.” In that directive, the task force noted that “enrollment disparity will no longer be crucial as a determining factor.”

A difference of no more than a three-classification range between schools in a district.

Abandoning the current regional setup and creating a new state playoff system.

Using the word “conference” instead of “district.”

“This latest decision to establish six classifications promises to be the most significant step the League has taken in more that 40 years, VHSL Executive Director Ken Tilley stated in a Virginia High School press release.

While there are a lot of details that remain to be determined, Halifax County High School Athletic Director Allen Lawter said yesterday that the VHSL decision to move from three to six classifications could be a good thing for Halifax County High School and its student-athletes.

“As long as we can cut down our travel, it could possibly be a good thing for us,” Lawter said.

“It’s probably time for a change. I hope it will provide us with help with our travel.”

Halifax County High School has been seeking relief from the VHSL for several years with regard to its extensive travel. With the current makeup of the Western Valley District, Comets teams have to travel two and a half hours each way to compete against Patrick Henry High School and William Fleming High School in Roanoke in regular-season and district tournament contests.

Halifax County High School also has trips of about an hour and a half to compete against a number of schools on its athletic and activities schedules.

Among the details that remain to be worked out by VHSL committees and officials are what schools will compete in what districts and how post-season playoffs will be set up.

“Nearly 90 percent of schools responding to the latest classification survey indicated they prefer to stay in their current district, so the new format allows for that,” Tilley stated in the VHSL release.

“Schools will be able to maintain their current local alignment for regular-season play. Scheduling can stay virtually the same to allow for natural rivalries and to keep geographic proximity.”

Tilley also pointed out that “under the new format, there is potential for greater consistency in playoff opportunities for sports and activities.” He noted that a Football Ratings Committee has already been created to handle that sport.