One of the most important dates on the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) calendar has arrived. The GHSA Reclassification Committee is set to hold its first official meeting on Sept. 7 and the impact from the committee’s meetings over the next six months could alter what the future of high school sports in Savannah looks like for years to come.
“The GHSA Reclassification Committee will meet on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023 at the GHSA office in Thomaston,” said the GHSA in a media release posted online last week. “The meeting, which will begin at 11 a.m., will begin the process of reclassifying schools for the 2024-26 school years. Like all GHSA meetings, this one is open to the public.”
Members on the committee are shuffled every two years and the 450+ GHSA member schools are reclassified on a staggered two-year cycle. Any reclassification changes recommended by the committee (and subsequently approved by the GHSA Executive Committee) will begin with the 2024-25 academic year and stay in place through the spring of 2026. There will be at least one notable adjustment to classifications beginning in 2024-25. It’s one that impacts every GHSA member school.
On April 11, 2022 during a Spring Meeting in Macon, the GHSA Executive Committee unanimously approved a proposal to reduce the total number of classes for the 2024-26 “reclass cycle.” Currently, the GHSA is split into eight classes with 7A being the highest (biggest schools) and Class 1A (Division I and II) being the lowest. With the new change, only seven classes will exist with Class 6A being the highest and Class 1A remaining split into two divisions.
This year, the GHSA reported that 412 of its 457 member schools were competing in football. Each classification currently houses roughly 40-60 football teams. According to Todd Holcomb of Georgia High School Football Daily, the lopsided nature of football games across the state has become even more glaring in recent years.
“The average score of a region football game in 2022-23 was 38-12,” Holcomb wrote last week. “More than 40% of games were decided by 30+ points. In 1998, only 22.3% were decided by 30 points or more.”
When the GHSA last had reclassification before the start of 2022-23, Savannah’s public and private schools were all forced to deal with significant changes that shook up the city’s athletic landscape.
Savannah Chatham County Public School System (SCCPSS) teams were split throughout several different classifications, forcing some such as Jenkins (Class 5A), Windsor Forest (2A) and Savannah High (1A-DI) into regions where no other Savannah schools were competing. Three of Savannah’s “Big 4” GHSA private schools (Calvary Day, Savannah Christian, Savannah Country Day) moved up from Class A-Private to Class 3A. Benedictine (4A) has been in the 4A classification (region 3-4A) alongside New Hampstead and Islands since moving up before the start of 2020-21. From 2012-2017, the Cadets competed in Class 2A. In 2018-19 and 2019-20, BC was in Class 3A.
For what it’s worth, none of the 17 men on the current committee come from Savannah area schools.
The reclassification committee members are: Jim Finch (GHSA President), Curt Miller (GHSA Vice President), Kirk Barton, Danny Redshaw, Steve Waters, Steven Craft, Garrett Black, James Jackson, Bobby Brewington, Jeff Battles, Jasper Jewell, Reggie Wilkes, Jesse Crews, Kevin Petroski, Richard Ricketts, Mike Thompson and Don Norton.
Schools are placed into classifications based on the number of students enrolled at their school. But, while school size is the primary factor in determining a school’s classification, the GHSA measures enrollment differently for public and private schools. It also adjusts for single-gender schools like Benedictine and St. Vincent’s. How best to decide a school’s student count is an inexact science to be sure. But it’s certainly a point of contention for many around the state, and more specifically, around Savannah.
“Every student attending a school from outside that school’s district-assigned attendance zone shall be counted as three students when it comes to calculating that school’s reclassification student count,” the GHSA Constitution says regarding Out-of-Zone and By-Laws for 2023-24.
“The reclassification Student Count for public schools will be based on the Full-Time Enrollment (FTE) count for students in Grades 9-12 as provided by the Georgia Department of Education.
“A single-gender school shall have its FTE numbers doubled for the purpose of reclassification. Single-gender schools will have the Out-of-Zone Multiplier applied only to the actual number of students enrolled in the school and not to their doubled enrollment figure. The reclassification Student Count for private schools will be based on the actual headcount of students in grades 9-12.”
Maybe it’s a bit confusing. That’s fair. But as far as Savannah schools are concerned, the results of reclassification can potentially influence where current middle school athletes are playing their high school sports over the next few years. Around here, it’s never as simple as one school is bigger or smaller than another. The actual student numbers at schools around Savannah are drastically different from the number used to reclassify them.
To illustrate that point – and to close out this column – I’ve listed the 2023-24 enrollment figures for some of Savannah’s GHSA schools. The first number is the FTE count while the number in parentheses is the Student Reclassification Count after applying multipliers like 3x to each out-of-zone student.
SCHOOL – Class – FTE (Reclass)
JENKINS – 5A – 1,011 (1,579)
BENEDICTINE – 4A – 816 (1,472)
CALVARY DAY – 3A – 367 (929)
JOHNSON – 3A – 746 (1,322)
SAVANNAH CHRISTIAN – 3A – 421 (1,209)