Winners, losers from GHSA reclassification decision

The Dunwoody Wildcats varsity football team take the field before their game against the Carver Panthers Friday, Sept. 11, 2015, at Lakewood Stadium in Atlanta. (Phil Skinner/For the AJC)
The Dunwoody Wildcats varsity football team take the field before their game against the Carver Panthers Friday, Sept. 11, 2015, at Lakewood Stadium in Atlanta. (Phil Skinner/For the AJC)

Credit: AJC

Credit: AJC

Saying full reclassification isn’t worth the trouble this year, the Georgia High School Association voted last week to extend the current region and classification setup for three more seasons.

That means dozens of schools that would’ve gone up or down in class will stay put through the 2023-24 academic year. About 110 of the GHSA’s 450-plus members changed classes in 2020.

A few GHSA members might get burned under the four-year cycle, among them Gainesville, Dunwoody and Tucker, schools that stood great chances of moving down under full reclassification this fall.

Others, such as Wheeler, Valdosta and Dublin, are likely pleased they don’t face a promotion despite enrollment increases that might’ve nudged them upward.

Only 31 GHSA public schools have experienced enrollment increases or decreases of 10% or more since 2019, when the GHSA last crunched the numbers for reclassification, according to GHSA data and recently released Georgia Department of Education figures. Only nine of those 31 stood any real chance of being reclassified this fall.

The nine are Beach (down 12%), Columbia (up 14%), Hapeville Charter (up 18%), Jackson County (up 12%), Jordan (down 10%), McNair (up 13%), Monroe Area (down 10%), Washington (up 14%) and Windsor Forest (down 10%). All are them are 2A, 3A or 4A schools.

For the other 22, it’s a moot issue. They are locked into Classes 7A with more than 2,200 students or in Class A with fewer than 550, or they are 2A schools such as Rabun County that haven’t lost enough students to land in Class A. Rabun’s enrollment is down 10% to 597 students, but that remains solidly above the Class A threshold.

The GHSA experimented with a four-year cycle from 2016-17 to 2019-20 and conducted a mid-cycle adjustment in 2018. Schools that had enrollment changes of 20% after two years were reclassified. Only about 12 schools met that criterion. No schools have seen 20% changes since the last reclassification except for a handful that remain small Class A schools.

However, it doesn’t take much to move a school up or down in full reclassification if that school’s enrollment is near the border between two classes.

For example, Wheeler dropped into 6A from 7A last year, checking in as the fifth-largest Class 6A school. Since then, the Marietta school has picked up 67 students, according to DOE data, moving it into Class 7A territory with 2,246 overall. But without full reclassification, Wheeler will remain in 6A. Wheeler won the 6A boys basketball state title last month after winning 7A in 2020.

The Wheeler boys celebrate winning the 2021 Class 6A championship over rival Kell on March 12, 2021.
The Wheeler boys celebrate winning the 2021 Class 6A championship over rival Kell on March 12, 2021.

Valdosta, now with 2,205 students — up by 94 — is another that might’ve jumped into 7A but remains safe. Also secure is Dublin, the 2019 Class 2A football champion that dropped into Class 1A Public last year. Dublin has added 32 students for a total of 543, on the Class 2A border, but the Irish will remain in 1A for three more football seasons.

Other schools on the borderline between classifications that have added students and might’ve gone up — but won’t — include Apalachee, Creekside, Northview and Veterans from Class 5A, Jackson County, North Oconee and Perry from 4A and Mary Persons, Oconee County and Sandy Creek from 3A.

The news is less favorable for Gainesville and Dunwoody, two Class 7A schools with enrollments that have declined enough to put them in 6A with full reclassification, but without it, that won’t happen. Gainesville’s enrollment is now 2,129, down 5% from the 2,240 in the last reclass. Dunwoody is down 6% to 2,112 from 2,278. The Wildcats haven’t had a winning football season since 2011, when they were a Class 4A school.

Tucker receiver Isaiah Raheem (7) hauls in the second of his two touchdown catches in the Tigers 29-12 win over the Southwest DeKalb Panthers on Friday, Oct. 2, 2021. (Mark Brock/For the AJC)
Tucker receiver Isaiah Raheem (7) hauls in the second of his two touchdown catches in the Tigers 29-12 win over the Southwest DeKalb Panthers on Friday, Oct. 2, 2021. (Mark Brock/For the AJC)

Then there’s Tucker, a DeKalb County school with declining numbers but stuck in a higher class. Tucker’s enrollment has dropped 9% to 1,595 from 1,747 in two years. Tucker’s plight has an ironic twist. The Tigers’ new football coach, James Thomson, came from Northview, a North Fulton school with an enrollment of 1,785. Despite nearly 200 more students than Tucker, Northview figures to remain in 5A while Tucker is destined to play 6A for three more seasons.

Woodstock, Kell and Southwest DeKalb are others that appeared ripe for going down in class. Buford and Carrollton of Class 6A also are borderline schools, although out-of-zone students, another GHSA consideration, might’ve forced them to stay up.

All this assumes that the GHSA’s executive committee in the fall puts the final stamp on the proposal to extend the current structure, which is expected. Keeping the regions and classes the same cuts the administrative workload for the GHSA’s staff and committees and for member schools that don’t have to come up with completely new schedules and games contracts in several sports. The four-year cycle also fosters more stable region rivalries, some say.

Even without full reclassification, all schools may contest their 2022-23 class and region assignments in the fall. The GHSA hasn’t indicated whether it will use the 20% criterion again to approve mid-cycle appeals.

Charting enrollment changes since 2019

Below are GHSA’s public schools by classification and ranked on their 2021 enrollment numbers as reported by the Georgia DOE. Those high in their classification might count themselves fortunate — they’ll likely stay in that class even if their numbers might’ve put them higher. Meanwhile, those low in the classifications will miss out on the chance to drop down.

For comparison, the chart also includes the 2019 enrollment numbers used for the GHSA’s previous reclassification. Each school’s 2019 figure represents an average of enrollment for spring and fall of that year. The 2021 figure is the spring count only.

Also, the GHSA’s current class assignments were based partly on the number of out-of-zone students for each school. That data is excluded here for simplicity but might explain why some schools appear to be classified higher than their enrollment alone. Other schools opted to play higher than their enrollment, and others won appeals to play lower.

Private schools are not included because their enrollment numbers are not maintained by the Georgia DOE. Only nine private schools play higher than Class A.

Schools with asterisks do not have football teams.

Class 7A
School 2019 2021 Change Change %
Mill Creek36513706552%
Brookwood35663631652%
Peachtree Ridge33173309-80%
Grayson31383196582%
North Gwinnett32393183-56-2%
Parkview31243157331%
East Coweta32463150-96-3%
Lambert29122930181%
Lowndes29342887-47-2%
Archer28452876311%
Campbell29232866-57-2%
Berkmar29422816-126-4%
Cherokee28162799-17-1%
Collins Hill29202787-133-5%
Discovery27672753-14-1%
Norcross29462724-222-8%
Mountain View2700270330%
Walton26552683281%
North Cobb28292659-170-6%
Duluth26172658412%
North Paulding25702636663%
North Forsyth25502620703%
South Gwinnett25092571622%
West Forsyth2558256240%
Forsyth Central25852530-55-2%
Meadowcreek26542505-149-6%
Marietta25182481-37-1%
Colquitt County2453245960%
Newton2455245500%
Camden County24852400-85-3%
Etowah24732398-75-3%
McEachern24122326-86-4%
South Forsyth22892307181%
Alpharetta23152292-23-1%
Pebblebrook24232291-132-5%
Milton23492271-78-3%
Newnan22502268181%
Denmark2014226825413%
Hillgrove23472258-89-4%
Tift County22152237221%
Harrison23502225-125-5%
Roswell22322214-18-1%
Gainesville22402129-111-5%
Woodstock23362122-214-9%
Dunwoody22582112-146-6%
Class 6A
School 2019 2021 Change Change %
Richmond Hill23412373321%
Dacula219623181226%
Wheeler21792246673%
Osborne21802238583%
Valdosta21112205944%
Shiloh22002167-33-2%
Rockdale County21872160-27-1%
John’s Creek21102129191%
Central Gwinnett20792122432%
Westlake21482112-36-2%
Lakeside (Atlanta)20792074-50%
North Atlanta21272072-55-3%
Dalton20502066161%
Creekview20212057362%
Grovetown20712031-40-2%
Cambridge20882024-64-3%
Sequoyah20302007-23-1%
Houston County19471981342%
Lassiter20701964-106-5%
Chattahoochee18851964794%
South Cobb20051950-55-3%
Rome19141946322%
Douglas County20131937-76-4%
Alexander18771930533%
River Ridge19531918-35-2%
Lakeside (Evans)18771918412%
Lanier19471915-32-2%
Northside (Warner Robins)18501913633%
Effingham County18201905855%
Hughes19421887-55-3%
Centennial19241882-42-2%
Habersham Central19581859-99-5%
Lee County19391855-84-4%
South Paulding1842185190%
Pope19431844-99-5%
Paulding County18981840-58-3%
Alcovy18791832-47-3%
Winder-Barrow19201830-90-5%
Evans19051820-85-4%
Lovejoy18391816-23-1%
Allatoona1785179050%
Heritage (Conyers)18301785-45-2%
Sprayberry1778178350%
South Effingham17251777523%
Kennesaw Mountain18391761-78-4%
Brunswick17901741-49-3%
Glynn Academy19001736-164-9%
Morrow17931730-63-4%
East Paulding17831711-72-4%
Statesboro16771711342%
Riverwood18191708-111-6%
Carrollton16981695-30%
Buford15431636936%
Bradwell Institute16321605-27-2%
Tucker17471595-152-9%
Kell15021422-80-5%
Class 5A
School 2019 2021 Change Change %
Apalachee17471843965%
Creekside17421790483%
Northview17501785352%
Veterans17231753302%
McIntosh1741174650%
Northgate17471745-20%
Forest Park16941745513%
Chamblee17621729-33-2%
Coffee17411724-17-1%
Clarke Central17601723-37-2%
Loganville16821718362%
Dutchtown17401713-27-2%
Ola17121709-30%
Harris County17161700-16-1%
Greenbrier16291694654%
New Manchester16541683292%
Decatur155716661097%
Mundy’s Mill16261659332%
Warner Robins16201644241%
Cross Keys16441611-33-2%
Villa Rica16091602-70%
Ware County15571581242%
Drew15851572-13-1%
Banneker144915721238%
Jones County15811559-22-1%
Eastside16001530-70-4%
Union Grove15211509-12-1%
Tri-Cities15451505-40-3%
Locust Grove15111502-9-1%
Eagle’s Landing15071490-17-1%
Lithia Springs15501475-75-5%
Cass14861474-12-1%
Jackson County1308147116312%
North Springs15181465-53-3%
Griffin14501465151%
Grady14731463-10-1%
Cartersville14671454-13-1%
Stockbridge14541451-30%
Woodland (Cartersville)14891439-50-3%
Chapel Hill14081437292%
Clarkston14721420-52-4%
Woodland (Stockbridge)14471411-36-2%
Northside (Columbus)15351408-127-8%
Hiram14731405-68-5%
Maynard Jackson13611400393%
M.L. King14351388-47-3%
Lithonia13621379171%
Wayne County14801377-103-7%
Jonesboro13851337-48-3%
Whitewater14341331-103-7%
Starrs Mill13791317-62-4%
Walnut Grove13631306-57-4%
Johnson (Gainesville)13841297-87-6%
Calhoun12171207-10-1%
Southwest DeKalb12491198-51-4%
Stone Mountain1176118261%
Class 4A
School 2019 2021 Change Change %
North Oconee13991461624%
Perry13611425645%
Southeast Whitfield1401140870%
Cedar Shoals13761400242%
Thomas County Central1384138620%
Madison County14021343-59-4%
Bainbridge13801337-43-3%
Stephenson13821329-53-4%
Fayette County13541323-31-2%
Westover1313131300%
Druid Hills13541307-47-3%
Troup1304130400%
Mount Zion (Jonesboro)1296129930%
Flowery Branch1284129171%
West Laurens1272127310%
Riverdale12921268-24-2%
Cedartown13021255-47-4%
Luella12081254464%
Pickens13451252-93-7%
Northwest Whitfield13001243-57-4%
Ridgeland13001240-60-5%
Cairo12671237-30-2%
Hampton12201237171%
Chestatee13001230-70-5%
East Hall12511230-21-2%
Arabia Mountain1221123091%
Spalding13071229-78-6%
Heritage (Ringgold)12711229-42-3%
LaGrange1201120981%
Miller Grove12531206-47-4%
Columbus12461206-40-3%
Baldwin12181201-17-1%
Mays12561197-59-5%
New Hampstead12251177-48-4%
Howard11711151-20-2%
Shaw11251138131%
Jefferson11841136-48-4%
McDonough11181136182%
North Clayton11581120-38-3%
Hardaway11441118-26-2%
Central (Carrollton)11311118-13-1%
Dougherty10841111272%
Monroe1093109630%
Westside (Macon)9901013232%
Jenkins1052977-75-7%
Islands1031948-83-8%
Kendrick831908779%
Spencer950881-69-7%
Rutland912878-34-4%
Jordan962861-101-10%
Carver (Columbus)871820-51-6%
Hapeville Charter59770310618%
Class 3A
School 2019 2021 Change Change %
Burke County12301274444%
Mary Persons11801205252%
Oconee County11621176141%
Upson-Lee11891173-16-1%
White County11771168-9-1%
Sandy Creek11341151171%
West Hall11221132101%
Douglass10591130717%
Salem11841127-57-5%
Harlem11191112-7-1%
Sonoraville10801112323%
Gilmer11911100-91-8%
LaFayette11151096-19-2%
North Hall11231095-28-2%
Southeast Bulloch11041094-10-1%
Stephens County1091109320%
Pike County10601093333%
Lumpkin County11151082-33-3%
Cedar Grove10881073-15-1%
Long County10171061444%
Dawson County11101057-53-5%
Coahulla Creek10961056-40-4%
Liberty County10911051-40-4%
Crisp County10661050-16-2%
Murray County10621029-33-3%
Cross Creek10561023-33-3%
Richmond Academy11021018-84-8%
Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe10131012-10%
Franklin County10931011-82-8%
Ringgold10551010-45-4%
North Murray1007101030%
Tattnall County10231001-22-2%
Jackson99499951%
Appling County978996182%
Hart County1004994-10-1%
Pierce County1033989-44-4%
Adairsville954988344%
Morgan County971985141%
Americus- Sumter1023981-42-4%
Monroe Area1069966-103-10%
Thomson1007966-41-4%
Rockmart96196430%
Peach County95896020%
East Jackson1000945-55-6%
Cherokee Bluff872944728%
Carver (Atlanta)93093991%
Brantley County970934-36-4%
Windsor Forest1034933-101-10%
Hephzibah969927-42-4%
Savannah Arts*962924-38-4%
Central (Macon)975893-82-8%
Redan919878-41-4%
Beach974859-115-12%
Groves719785669%
Johnson (Savannah)779706-73-9%
Savannah599624254%
Class 2A
School 2019 2021 Change Change %
Columbia85597311814%
Therrell883904212%
Fannin County912889-23-3%
Haralson County902881-21-2%
Callaway825876516%
Washington County86987561%
Cook856866101%
South Atlanta803855526%
Dodge County853852-10%
Westside (Augusta)865851-14-2%
Washington74184510414%
Union County815840253%
Banks County859832-27-3%
Putnam County781824436%
Jeff Davis818813-5-1%
Worth County820809-11-1%
Gordon Central865808-57-7%
Lamar County765802375%
KIPP Atlanta774797233%
Elbert County807785-22-3%
Berrien835782-53-6%
Pepperell850766-84-10%
Fitzgerald802766-36-4%
Butler762757-5-1%
Toombs County790756-34-4%
Towers737753162%
Southwest826742-84-10%
Swainsboro727739122%
Thomasville756734-22-3%
Vidalia728726-20%
Glenn Hills667726599%
Northeast730717-13-2%
Model733705-28-4%
McNair6186998113%
Bremen708692-16-2%
Jefferson County741678-63-9%
Woodville-Thompkins*691656-35-5%
East Laurens63764471%
Chattooga750643-107-14%
Coosa654643-11-2%
Laney620639193%
Dade County63263310%
Bleckley County650614-36-6%
Monticello681612-69-10%
Bacon County580607275%
Temple60060661%
Heard County586605193%
Rabun County660597-63-10%
Oglethorpe County642589-53-8%
Josey581578-3-1%
Stilwell Arts*57657241%
Early County606550-56-9%
Class A
School 2019 2021 Change Change %
Social Circle55455400%
Screven County562553-9-2%
Bryan County554546-8-1%
Dublin511543326%
Armuchee515511-4-1%
ACE Charter476504286%
Claxton489504153%
Brooks County475497225%
Crawford County488484-4-1%
Commerce460476163%
Drew Charter*46847571%
Irwin County498461-37-7%
Atkinson County467460-7-1%
Telfair County461448-13-3%
Davidson Fine Arts*447439-8-2%
Chattahoochee County462429-33-7%
Gordon Lee453425-28-6%
Charlton County414424102%
Lanier County438421-17-4%
Greene County430416-14-3%
Pelham40240972%
Mt. Zion, Carroll397408113%
Bowdon437404-33-8%
Schley County378401236%
Seminole County412400-12-3%
Metter472392-80-17%
Taylor County38939121%
Wilkinson County357371144%
Washington-Wilkes375369-6-2%
McIntosh Co. Academy379363-16-4%
Manchester386362-24-6%
Elite Scholars Academy*34935893%
Wilcox County337355185%
DeKalb School of Arts*342353113%
Trion375353-22-6%
Marion County369351-18-5%
Emanuel County Institute34234310%
Clinch County356342-14-4%
Dooly County327341144%
Macon County34134100%
Terrell County349340-9-3%
Barrow Arts and Science Academy*450338112-25%
Turner County327337103%
Johnson, Augusta*33533610%
Hawkinsville341336-5-1%
Johnson County337335-2-1%
Mitchell County327320-7-2%
Towns County2783163814%
Lincoln County31631600%
Treutlen2652973212%
Jenkins County284295114%
Technical Career Magnet*279292-13-5%
Wheeler County293273-20-7%
Portal2422662410%
Lake Oconee Academy*25725810%
Montgomery County241257167%
Miller County266254-12-5%
Randolph-Clay230244146%
Hancock Central23524273%
Greenville266237-29-11%
Echols County*21722473%
Morris Innovative*324220-104-32%
Baconton Charter20621263%
Twiggs County233200-33-14%
Atlanta Classical*19419400%
Savannah Early College*215194-21-10%
Rainey McCullers*1501893926%
Pataula Charter16817242%
Glascock County158169117%
Coretta Scott King*346168-178-51%
Calhoun County192160-32-17%
B.E.S.T Academy330159-171-52%
Warren County159152-7-4%
Central, Talbotton14214311%
Stewart County10610933%
Quitman County*108107-1-1%
Fulton Leadership Acad*170100-70-41%
STEAM Academy*938589%
Baker County*6981-12-17%
Webster County*7769810%
Savannah Classical Academy*534948%
Taliaferro County*504824%
Woody Gap*2021-1-5%
Georgia Military College307N/AN/AN/A

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