GHSA to discuss ending Class A public-private split

The Georgia High School Association’s reclassification committee will consider a proposal Thursday that could bring Class A public and private schools together again, competing for the same championships for the first time in 10 years.

The plan, proposed by reclassification members Steven Craft and Jasper Jewell, calls for Class A to reorganize into divisions of large and smaller schools rather than public and private schools.

Change is necessary because the GHSA next year could be down to about 25 Class A Private schools that field football teams. Ten Class A private schools left the GHSA for another association this month, and more departures are possible.

“Clearly, something has to be done in Class A due to the shrinking number of private schools,” GHSA executive director Robin Hines said Wednesday. “There’s not enough to fill a 32-team bracket in football. That in itself lends itself to needing some type of change. What that is and what it will look like, I couldn’t tell you.”

Craft, also the athletic director of Fulton County Schools, described his plan as a conversation starter only. Any decision would require the approval of the GHSA’s executive committee, which meets next month.

“There will be lot of conversation on how to fix our issues with single A,” Craft said. “Every option needs to be on the table and discussed. We owe it to all member schools to have meaningful state championship experiences.”

Craft would recommend applying the 3.0 out-of-zone multiplier to the Class A schools’ enrollment before dividing the schools. If that’s done, virtually all football-playing private schools would land in the Class A upper division, leaving the lower division predominantly public.

The plan also would allow Class A schools to petition to move up into higher classifications. That could be viewed as a safety valve for public schools that still aren’t eager to face the private schools in state playoffs and meets.

In 2011, about 30 smaller public schools threatened to pull out of the GHSA if not allowed to compete for their own state championships. The GHSA split Class A into public and private divisions beginning with the 2012-13 academic year. The GHSA essentially made Class A two classifications in 2020 by giving private and public schools eight regions apiece. Before, they shared regions but split for the playoffs.

The 10 GHSA members that announced they are joining the Georgia Independent School Association next year are Lakeview Academy, Deerfield-Windsor, Tattnall Square, Stratford Academy, Mount de Sales, First Presbyterian, Heritage of Newnan, George Walton Academy, Strong Rock Christian and St. Anne-Pacelli.

St. Anne-Pacelli, a GHSA member since 1960, had no previous association with GISA as did most of the others. Athletic director Corry Black cited two major reasons for his school’s decision to leave.

One was a GHSA rule that redefined private school’s attendance zones, making it harder for transfer students to get immediate athletic eligibility. The other was the GHSA’s decision to raise the enrollment ceiling for Class A schools to 585 from 525.

“This forces our student-athletes to compete against even larger schools than we are already competing against,” Black said. St. Anne-Pacelli has 293 students, according to the data the GHSA used to classify its schools this year.

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