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New Piedmont District alignment goes into effect

After more than a year of discussion and planning, the Virginia High School League’s new six-division classification system and new district alignments are now in effect. The Western Valley District became extinct Monday, and Halifax County High School joined Tunstall High School, GW of Danville, Martinsville High School, Magna Vista High School, Bassett High School, Patrick County High School and Franklin County High School as members of the new Piedmont District.

“I look for it to be an overall positive experience,” Halifax County High School Athletic Director Allen Lawter said of the school’s move into the Piedmont District.

“It’s going to be interesting because it is different. I’m sure there will be some bumps in the road just because of the changes. But, I think it will be a good thing. We’re waiting for August to get here and get cranked up.”

Lawter and the athletic directors of the other seven Piedmont District schools have met numerous times, as have the principals of the eight district schools. The prevailing attitude, Lawter said, has been positive.

“I haven’t been in many meetings with the principals, but I think the ADs (athletic directors) are going into this very open-minded,” Lawter pointed out.

“I don’t think anybody is going into this thinking this is not going to work. I think it’s more of an attitude that we’ve got to make it work, and we’re going to make it work. I can’t speak for the other former Western Valley District schools (GW and Franklin County High School), but they (officials of the Piedmont District schools) have been very welcoming to us.”

The move to the Piedmont District will be a positive move for Halifax County High School on two fronts — one being it will mean less travel, and secondly, student-athletes should not have to miss as much class time.

“I have not done a cost analysis,” Lawter said, “but we feel there will be some savings — not only money-wise but time-wise. I’m interested in seeing if we can have the kids out of class less and get them back home after games earlier. 

“As much as anything,” he continued, “we feel like it will be a positive safety measure. We feel traveling Route 58 to and from a majority of our games will be safer than traveling Route 501 and Route 40. While we will still travel those roads some, there won’t be nearly the number of trips on those roads now that we’re in the Piedmont District.”

As far as preparations go for the start of the new era of the Piedmont District, Lawter says things are about 90 percent complete. The big thing Lawter and the Piedmont District school athletic directors are still working on is scheduling.

“One of the things we are struggling with is that just about every school system in the Piedmont District has a different spring break,” Lawter pointed out.

“We are having to make some adjustments to the spring (sports) schedules we had done because of spring break. You’re not working with one week, now you’re working with about four different weeks among all of the schools.”

Another scheduling item Lawter says is being looked at is situations regarding postponement of games due to inclement weather.

“We were all pretty familiar with each other’s weather policy in the Western Valley District as far as weather postponements and such, and that is something else we’ve got to deal with and get used to with the new district,” Lawter noted.

Work on scheduling the Piedmont District’s post-season district tournament schedules has not yet been wrapped up.

“Because we are having a district tournament, we are having to make a few adjustments,” Lawter noted.

“I’m not saying it’s a great number, but we’re having to make a few adjustments because of conference tournaments. Most of that was planned out pretty well. What you’re doing is you’re having to fit in another round of tournaments in the post-season that had not been there in the past.”

All of the Piedmont District schools are now dealing with an eight-team district as opposed to a five-team district. And, with all eight teams participating in the district tournament, it will mean an extra round of district tournament games.

There is another circumstance that comes into play.

“Our region, the 5A North, is working with different-sized conferences within the region,” Lawter pointed out.

“So, where we have a four-team conference, and all you have to do is set up a semi-final and a final, some conferences in the region have eight teams, which means a three-day tournament. You have to factor that into the situation as well.”

Because district tournaments now will have no impact on whether or not a team will advance into conference play, if inclement weather or other circumstances occur that would necessitate shortening or not completing a district tournament, it will not create any problems, Lawter said.

“With that situation of the district (tournament) not having any bearing on moving on to conference play, there may be situations in which if you get a weather postponement and you can’t fit it in, as opposed to having to do something like playing four ballgames in a week, you may not make it up, which is different from the past,” Lawter explained.

“Although the athletes would play less games, they won’t be forced to play under unbearable conditions like having to play four games in a span of five or six days.” 

All in all, Lawter says things are well within the realm of the new Piedmont District.

“I think we’re in pretty good shape,” Lawter remarked.

“All of us are on the same page with everybody else.”