The Georgia High School Association’s (GHSA) proposed reclassification for 2020-22 will move Jefferson up to Class AAAA with Jackson County joining them.
East Jackson will remain in Class AAA, and Commerce will stay in Class A Public.
These classifications aren’t yet official. Schools have until Monday (Nov. 11) to file an appeal.
The GHSA posted the proposed reclassification list Tuesday (Nov. 5). A new 2.0 multiplier was used for Class AA through Class AAAAAA this cycle, counting all out-of-district enrollment at a school as double.
The multiplier was aimed at private and city schools, which typically have larger out-of-district enrollment numbers than county schools.
Jefferson, a city school, with an enrollment of 1,184 reported 252 out-of-district students, pushing its enrollment to 1,436 after the multiplier was applied. Because of that, Jefferson jumped from Class AAA to Class AAAA.
There was speculation that Jefferson would leap to Class AAAAA, but the school narrowly missed that jump. It will be the second-largest Class AAAA school behind Northwest Whitfield (1,437).
Jefferson competed in Class AAAA from 2016-2018.
Jefferson City Schools superintendent John Jackson said he wasn’t as surprised with Jefferson avoiding a jump to Class AAAAA after seeing the amount of schools in the state with large out-of-district attendance figures. Jackson referenced a list that recently appeared in Georgia High School Football Daily, showing the 20 public high schools in the state that had the largest percentages of out-of-district enrollment. Jefferson was not on that list.
“I didn't know what to expect going into this new phase,” Jackson said. “The previous policy was written as ‘out of county’ students as opposed to ‘out of attendance zone’ students. Once I saw the large number of Georgia high schools that admitted out-of-attendance-zone-students, it was less of a surprise.”
Jefferson athletic director Bill Navas echoed Jackson’s thoughts.
“I honestly thought we were going to be five-A the whole time based off of our numbers, adding our multiplier to it,” Navas said. “There are a lot of schools that have significantly more out-of-district students than we have, and that’s what surprised me the most.”
He also said he thought that this “isn’t just a city school issue or a private school issue.”
“There were a lot of schools that aren’t either one of those two that have a lot of kids outside their school district going to school at their schools,” Navas said.
Asked about the GHSA’s multiplier, Navas said he wasn’t sure how much large non-district enrollment factored into athletic success.
“There are schools out there that don’t have very good athletic programs that have a significant amount of students that are outside of their attendance areas,” he said. “I don’t know that they hit their mark in terms of what they were trying to accomplish by it.”
Jefferson has no plans to file any appeals since Navas was told by the GHSA that the school would be locked into Class AAAA — with no chance of shifting to Class AAAAA — when classifications become official. Even if some Class AAAAA schools were to win appeals and drop down to Class AAAA, Jefferson would not bump up.
As for Jackson County, the school had a reclassification count of 1,326, moving it up from Class AAA to Class AAAA. Jackson County had just 18 non-district students. Athletic director Brad Hayes said the school is excited about the change and the growth within its district.
"As one of the fastest-growing communities in America, and with a new, state-of-the-art facility being built in our community, we feel like Jackson County High School is in a great position as we transfer into AAAA and potentially, very soon, into AAAAA," Hayes said. "Not only has the growth brought us more and more great families to our district, it has also turned Jackson County into a place where the best teachers and coaches want to work. We pride ourselves in great academics, arts and athletics, and the growth will allow us to do these things on a bigger scale."
East Jackson stayed in Class AAA with a count of 1,033. Commerce remained in Class A Public with an FTE count of 460.