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HCHS Taking ‘Wait And See’ Approach

Halifax County High School officials are taking a “wait and see” approach in the wake of petitions from Roanoke City Public Schools officials seeking to drop Patrick Henry High School and William Fleming High School to Group AA status. “We’re not going to do anything until they (Virginia High School League officials) react,” Halifax County High School Athletic Director Allen Lawter said.

“There is still one more chance to do something after this, if we feel it is necessary.” Roanoke City Public School Deputy Superintendent Curt Baker filed a formal request to Virginia High School League Executive Director Ken Tilley this past Tuesday to have the two schools dropped from Group AAA down to Group AA classification.

Baker cited travel hardships as the primary reason for the request.

The VHSL Redistricting and Reclassification Committee will meet Tuesday in Charlottesville to hear proposals for modifications to its proposed alignment plan. At that time the R&R Committee is expected to consider the request from the two Roanoke High Schools.

If the VHSL grants the request to drop the two Roanoke schools down to Group AA status, the Western Valley District will be destroyed. That would leave Halifax County High School, GW and Franklin County High School hanging in limbo, with VHSL officials facing a daunting task in re-assigning the three schools to another district.

Halifax County High School officials are not at this time planning to file a similar request to drop to Group AA status.

“We’re just going to wait and see how the VHSL reacts,” Lawter said.

“If the VHSL accepts their request, I will meet with Mr. Randolph (Halifax County High School Principal Albert Randolph) and we will probably meet with Mr. Stapleton (Halifax County School Superintendent Paul Stapleton) and determine what we should do.”

In September, the VHSL’s Redistricting and Reclassification Committee released its proposed alignment for state schools for the two-year cycle beginning in 2011. In that alignment, Patrick Henry High School and William Fleming High School were set to remain in the Western Valley District with Halifax County, GW and Franklin County High School.

The school alignments are made every two years with the alignments based upon school enrollments. The school enrollments are based upon the average daily membership enrollments in grades 9-12 that school systems are required to submit to the Virginia Department of Education.

VHSL officials take the enrollment figures and divide its participating schools into thirds. The upper third is considered Group AAA, the middle third is classified as Group AA, and schools in the bottom third are classified as Group A schools.

Patrick Henry High School is nowhere close to the dividing line between Group AA and Group AAA schools. William Fleming is also above the dividing line but is closer to Group AA status than Patrick Henry High School.

Halifax County High School also is not close to the dividing line.

The VHSL will meet Tuesday to consider proposed modifications to its realignment plan. On April 19, the R&R Committee will hear formal appeals to any modifications it makes to the plan that it released in September.

It is that window of opportunity that Lawter was pointing to as an opportunity for Halifax County High School to propose or request relief if it feels necessary.

The VHSL Executive Committee will finalize all assignments in May.

Lawter understands very well the travel hardship problems that Baker has cited in his petition to the Virginia High School League.

Halifax County High School has petitioned the Virginia High School in the past for the same kind of relief that the Roanoke schools are asking for. Those requests, however, were denied.

“I understand his concerns,” Lawter said of the Roanoke school official.

“The travel is tough. I think we have the highest average miles of travel of anybody (in the district). It (the travel) takes its toll on all of us (the Western Valley District schools). I also understand his concern with the expense of travel and its impact on the school system’s budget. We’re all feeling it.”

Lawter said the local school budget is a concern and that Halifax County, like all Virginia school systems, is feeling the pinch of the sluggish economy.
“I don’t know at this time what impact it (the county school budget) may have on athletics,” Lawter said.

“We won’t know until school system officials get all of the numbers. However, we are discussing ways to save money here and there.”