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Reclassification may mean big changes for local schools
Gainesville may be bound for Class AAAAA
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State FTE numbers

Current class Projected class

Banks County AA AAA

Buford AA AAA

Chestatee AAA AAAA

Commerce A A

Dawson County AA AAA

East Hall AA AAA

Flowery Branch AAAA AAAAA

Gainesville AAA AAAAA

Habersham Central AAAA AAAAAA

Jackson County AA AAA

Jefferson AA AA

Johnson AAA AAAA

Lakeview A A

Lumpkin County AAA AAAA

North Hall AAA AAA

Riverside A AA

Towns County A A

Union County AA AA

West Hall AAA AAA

White County AAA AAA


The Georgia Department of Education has released its fall enrollment numbers, and big changes may be in store for some area schools as the Georgia High Schools Association reclassification process moves forward next week.

Making the biggest jump could be Gainesville High, which falls well within the projected range for Class AAAAA in the new six-classification system.

The Red Elephants currently compete in Class AAA with a number of other Hall County schools.

"We've been very fortunate with our travel," said Gainesville athletic director Wayne Vickery. "But if we move up, and I'm looking at it from a financial standpoint, there would be a lot more travel and there could be a lot of instructional time missed."

Vickery is worried that if Gainesville does indeed move up two classifications, that it might also limit the number of home games with optimal ticket sales, such as games against the other Hall County rivals.

The Red Elephants would get to play projected Class AAAAA school Flowery Branch, once again, but would have to work in games against the likes of North Hall and Johnson in the non-region schedule.

Gainesville is projected to play in Region 8-AAAAA, which could include Heritage and Salem in Conyers, Clarke Central and Cedar Shoals in Athens, as well as the Falcons.

If that's how it ends up, Vickery and the rest of the Red Elephants will be ready to move on with the new challenges.

"We're going to play the cards that we're dealt," Vickery said. "And we'll do the best we can."

No changes will be announced until the GHSA reclassification committee meets Tuesday in Thomaston, and the committee will have some leeway to consider travel distances and other factors when slotting teams.

Still, the figures indicate that a dramatic alteration to the current landscape is likely.

Based on the fall numbers, Flowery Branch remains the largest school in Hall County with 1,332 students in grades 9-11.

The school is projected to be in Class AAAAA and is currently in Class AAAA. Gainesville has the second highest enrollment (1,243) in the county and is the only other Hall school to be projected in Class AAAAA.

Most of the teams currently in the Flowery Branch's region will move up as well, meaning that the next two years might not look all that different for the Falcons.

"All this is going to make it easier for everybody," said Flowery Branch athletic director Shannon Benton. "Only thing different is we'll be losing a few of the current schools and picking up Gainesville."

And with only eight of the current Region 8-AAAA schools projected to move to Class AAAAA (and Winder-Barrow is right on the bubble of being in the highest classification), it leaves room for Flowery Branch to play even more local schools and bring in more high-revenue games with Hall County rivals.

This would be the second jump in as many reclassification cycles for the Falcons, who were bumped up to Class AAAA two years ago.

"Whatever place they put us, we're going to get going and play," Benton said. "That's our motto."

Current Class AAA schools Johnson (982) and Chestatee (932) are projected to play in Class AAAA. Current Class AA school East Hall (783) is projected to move up to Class AAA.

Not all county schools are projected to be changing classifications. North Hall (834) and West Hall (832) would remain in Class AAA and Lakeview Academy (110 1/4) would remain in Class A if the projections hold true.

Riverside Military (367 1/2) is projected to move up to Class AA.

As for other area schools, Habersham Central is projected to make the biggest change, jumping two classifications.

The school in Mount Airy has a 9-11 fall enrollment of 1,450 and is projected to play in the highest classification.

None of the counties surrounding Habersham County have schools projected to be in Class AAAAAA, making travel a potential problem for Raiders teams.

Longtime Class AA school Buford (776) is projected to move to Class AAA.

For the new cycle, the reclassification committee has been granted permission to tweak the percentages in each class to yield the fairest divisions possible, taking into account travel distances and other issues.

The sixth classification was added because the GHSA has added 63 schools since 2000.

The largest 15 percent of schools will be in the new class, followed by the next 15 percent in AAAAA.

The next 16 percent will go in AAAA, the next in AAA and the next in AA. Class A will include the remaining 22 percent of schools.

At this point, the new classifications are only projections based on the new numbers, and could change based on how the committee finalizes the classes on Tuesday.

After the committee places the schools in classes and those classes are published, the schools have 14 days to ask to play up in class.

Following this step, the committee will place schools in regions, and schools will have another 14 days to request a lateral transfer, a move from one region to another within the same classification.

The committee will meet again in December to hear the appeals for a lateral transfer and vote on them.

Finally, in early-to-mid January, the full Executive Committee will convene in Macon to ratify and finalize the reclassification for school years 2012-13 and 2013-14.


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