Winder-Barrow will be staying put and Apalachee will be dropping down a class under the GHSA’s reclassification for the next two school years, while Barrow County’s new high school has tentatively been placed in the lowest classification.
The state’s high school association released its reclassification figures for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years Nov. 5 using its new 2.0 multiplier rule. Under the rule — designed to address concerns about perceived competitive advantages private schools and city schools may have over county schools — out-of-zone students are counted twice.
Winder-Barrow will remain in Class 6A with a projected enrollment of 1,920 students. The school is projected to have 50 out-of-zone students, giving it a reclassification count of 1,970 and ranking it 37th out of 56 schools in the class. Apalachee’s projected enrollment count is 1,747 with 49 out-of-zone students for a reclassification count of 1,796. That would make the school tied for the third highest enrollment in the new 56-school Class 5A and give it the fourth highest mark with the multiplier factored in.
Both Winder-Barrow’s and Apalachee’s expected enrollment numbers are dropping as the result of the opening of Barrow Arts and Sciences Academy next fall. That school’s projected enrollment was listed at 450 students — which for now places the school in Class 1A Public — and is based on the number of applications that had been submitted for the school as of late October. Barrow County School System officials were expecting more applications to come in before finalizing numbers in December. Whether there would be enough additional students to push the school into 2A remains to be seen, but there would need to be at least 100 more based on the GHSA’s figures.
The GHSA heard appeals Tuesday, Nov. 12, and set preliminary regions.
Winder-Barrow will remain in Region 8-AAAAAA and will be joined by holdovers Dacula (which won an appeal to stay in 6A rather than being bumped up to 7A), Habersham Central and Lanier. Buford, a powerhouse across most sports, is joining the region after being moved up from 5A, as are Central Gwinnett (down from 7A) and Denmark of Alpharetta (up from 4A). Along with Apalachee dropping down, Gainesville was moved up to 7A.
As for Apalachee, it will be in a sprawling eight-team Region 8-AAAAA that includes Jackson County (which was originally moved up from 3A to 4A and won an appeal to move up another class), Loganville, Walnut Grove, Clarke Central, Johnson-Gainesville, Eastside of Covington and Greenbrier of Evans.
“(The GHSA) does their best in trying to have the regions numerically equal while understanding it’s impossible to have that happen and they be geographically equitable in terms of travel,” Apalachee athletic director Ralph Neeley said prior to the announcement of the regions, which will be finalized after appeals are heard Tuesday, Nov. 19.
Under the changes, it will be the first time since the 2007-08 school year that Winder-Barrow and Apalachee have not been in the same region or classification.
In any event, Winder-Barrow athletic director Jared Noblet and Neeley both said they expect their schools will continue to compete against each other in all sports and that there will be enough non-region spots left on the football schedule to continue the annual Battle of Barrow game.
“The big change simply will be the stars on the schedule that depict who’s a region opponent,” Neeley said.
Barrow Arts and Sciences Academy (BASA) could be faced with extensive travel of its own under a change to the way the GHSA will align its Class A schools. While the association has split up the postseason between public and private schools in recent years, those schools have all been in regions together and a power ranking system has been used to determine playoff seeding. Starting next school year, however, there will be separate regions for the public and private schools, which will lead to much more geographically-expansive public-school regions in north Georgia. Under the reclassification, the closest 1A Public schools to BASA would be Commerce and Greene County.
The school was not placed in a region right away Tuesday since it will not be competing in football next year. The school is expected to offer a handful of sports. A list is expected to be finalized in December.