On June 30th, HCS Media Network reported here on the June 24th meeting of the Virginia High School League (VHSL) Alignment Committee, which met in Charlottesville to discuss changes to the new six-classification system due to normal student population changes at schools throughout Virginia.
The meeting also served as an opportunity for all twelve regions to report to the committee on concerns voiced by individual schools, and in the case of one region, a collective of schools, about the new system implemented in the 2013-14 school year.
Our original report focused on several issues, including the proposed changes that came out of the meeting, how they would affect several schools in our coverage area, and why the existence of "districts" continues with the proposal of districts for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years with one area change.
HCS Media spoke with Atlee Activities Director Dave Kannewurf this week via email. Mr. Kannewurf serves on the VHSL Alignment Committee, and spoke candidly about the meeting, its purpose, rationale behind portions of the proposal, and confirming the continued existence of districts and why that is the case.
Of note, Mr. Kannewurf did not attend the June 24th meeting (he represents the 5A South Region) due to being on vacation, but Atlee principal Jennifer Cohodas was there on his behalf. Kannewurf was in constant communication with Cohodas during the actual meeting.
A QUESTION OF BALANCE: While exploring the changes in school enrollments, the committee was also charged, in trying to settle the new classification system into existence in preparation for its second two-year cycle, to reach a goal given to them by the VHSL.
"The Alignment Committee was given the tasks of balancing out the Regions and Conferences," Kannewurf said. "The parameters given were that Conferences should have between five and eight members, and Regions should have 24 to 28 members."
In the Richmond area alone, in the 5A South Region, Conference 11 had eight members, Conference 12 had six, while Conference 16 had only four. Thus, where Patrick Henry only had to win one game in their conference tournaments to clinch a 5A North Region playoff berth, teams like L.C. Bird and Manchester in Conference 12 had to win two.
"The difference between 5A North and 5A South was such that a few schools from 5A South needed to move to 5A North," Kannewurf noted. The proposal would place 28 schools in 5A South, 24 in 5A North.
The biggest change involves area schools, as Atlee, Mills Godwin and Deep Run would move from 5A South, Conference 11 to 5A North, Conference 16.
"Mills Godwin, Deep Run, and Atlee were the most western and northern schools which made sense when looking at locations," Kannewurf explained. "They are also the closest schools to the current members of Conference 16, which consists of Albemarle, Orange, and Patrick Henry."
Halifax County, also a current member of Conference 16, has been moved in the proposal to 5A South, Conference 12 to be the only non-Richmond/Petersburg area member of a seven-team conference. Conference 12 would lose Clover Hill and Manchester, as they would move up to 6A South, Conference 3, joining county colleagues Cosby, James River, and Thomas Dale. The Skyhawks, Meadowbrook, Matoaca, and Prince George would also welcome Highland Springs and Varina to Conference 12.
PLAYOFFS ONLY: On paper, this would give the impression that, for example, Eastern Hanover rivals Atlee and Lee-Davis would be separated, and this is true when it comes to the playoffs. Currently, Patrick Henry could not face either Atlee or Lee-Davis in the postseason until the State Semifinals due to the Patriots being in 5A North, the Raiders and Confederates in 5A South.
But now is a good time to discuss a major point of the meeting, and the foreseeable future when it comes to how rivals across the state are scheduled.
"It is important to remember that this is for playoffs only," Kannewurf stated. "With district scheduling, Atlee will continue to play Lee-Davis twice a year in most sporting events. The effect of this change will not change anything as far as competition goes between them. A perfect example of how competition will look is to look at the competition between Atlee and Hanover both prior to the new system and after. As you could see from last year, Atlee and Hanover continued to play each other twice in most or all sports."
THE DISTRICTS LIVE ON: The reason why rivalries such as L.C. Bird/Thomas Dale can continue is the VHSL continues to use the old "District System" from the former "Three-Group" classification system used from 1970-2013 to determine regular season schedules. Many people believed that the VHSL approved continued use of old district schedules in the first two-year cycle of the new classification system to help bridge schools from the "old" to the "new". That was never the plan.
"Currently, there is no plan to move away from district scheduling," Kannewurf said. "Each district is reponsible for making that decision. Any change would have to be voted on by the principals of that district. When the new alignment was designed by the VHSL (in 2012), it was done for postseason purposes only and with the belief that regular season competition would still be district driven. What this system has done is that it has opened up the door to play your non-district games against conference schools."
The one proposal coming from the make-up of districts for 2015-16 and 2016-17 would swap Patrick Henry and Glen Allen, the Patriots going to the Capital District, where they haven't resided since the 1970's, to join their county rivals, and the Jaguars moving to the Colonial District, where they would be in the same district as county geographic neighbors Hermitage, J.R. Tucker, and Deep Run among others. There are no changes planned to the Central and Dominion Districts.
NOT FOR ANOTHER YEAR: It is important be to reminded here that, once the proposed changes are approved, they will not take effect until the 2015-16 school year. The new year almost upon us will operate just like last year did. Schools are currently filing appeals to the proposal with the VHSL Alignment Committee. They will be heard at a meeting on August 11th. Once approved in either its current or an amended form, the Alignment Committee will present the proposal to the VHSL Executive Committee for possible approval on September 17th.
THE CHANGES: Here are the new proposed Conferences by Region affecting all Metro Richmond area schools. Teams that have moved will be in bold with former home in parentheses. Any moves from one classification to another (example: 3A to 4A) is due to rise in student population. There are a few that move down, not always due to falling student population, but more because enough schools with rising populations moving up have pushed some schools down one classification.
Of the ten county high schools, five would now be in 6A South, Conference 3, three in 5A South, Conference 12, and two in 4A South, Conference 20. Chesterfield Community remains in 1A East, Conference 42.
Conference 3: (was 6 teams, now 7 teams)
Clover Hill (was 5A South, Conference 12)
Manchester (was 5A South, Conference 12)
Conference 11: (was 8 teams, would be 6 teams)
Glen Allen (was 4A South, Conference 20)
J.R. Tucker (was 4A South, Conference 20)
Conference 12: (was 6 teams, would be 7 teams)
Halifax (was 5A North, Conference 16)
Highland Springs (was 5A South, Conference 11)
Varina (was 6A South, Conference 3)
Conference 16: (was 4 teams, would be 6 teams)
Atlee (was 5A South, Conference 11)
Deep Run (was 5A South, Conference 11)
Mills Godwin (was 5A South, Conference 11)
Patrick Henry (Ashland)
Conference 19: (completely new members, six total)
Caroline (was Conference 20)
Conference 20: (was 7 teams, would be 6 teams)
Huguenot (was 3A East, Conference 26)
Powhatan (moving from Conference 19)
(Conference 25, home to Colonial Heights and New Kent, would shrink from eight to five members, with departure of Lafayette, Poquoson, and York)
Conference 26: (remains 7 teams)
James Monroe (moving from Conference 27)
Spotsylvania (moving from Conference 27)
Conference 33: John Marshall moves down one classification, joins Maggie Walker Governor's School, King William, Washington & Lee, Arcadia, Bruton & Nandua. Windsor leaves, moving to 1A East.
Conference 34, containing Goochland, Amelia County, remains the same.
Conference 42, containing Chesterfield Community, West Point, and Charles City remains the same.
OF NOTE: 4A teams will be interested to know that Tidewater schools Phoebus, I.C. Norcom, Booker T. Washington, Tabb, and Lakeland all move down to 3A East. Phoebus is a long time football power, while Glen Allen boys basketball defeated Booker T. Washington in February to clinch a 4A State Tournament berth.