Richmond Hill High School could be put in the state’s largest classification for high school sports next year based on enrollment numbers released recently by the Georgia Department of Education — but it won’t stay in Class AAAAAA if local officials can help it.
Both Bryan County Schools Superintendent Dr. Paul Brooksher and school board Chairman Eddie Warren Thursday said the school will appeal if RHHS is put into Class AAAAAA when the Georgia High School Association begins its work on reclassification next week.
“Oh, we’ll definitely appeal,” Warren said during a called Board of Education work session at the Richmond Hill Pre-K Center.
The latest round of reclassification, which takes place every two years and uses enrollment figures to put schools in classifications ranging from A, the smallest, to AAAAAA, is expected to take until January, according to a report published Monday by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and referred to Thursday night.
The issue arose when Assistant Superintendent Dr. Trey Robertson spoke of the Atlanta newspaper’s report and numbers that show Richmond Hill High’s enrollment of 1,832 students is projected to put it in the state’s highest classification for sports beginning in 2014.
That enrollment would make RHHS one of two schools at the bottom of the state’s top classification. By contrast, the largest school in Class AAAAAA is Mill Creek, with an enrollment of 3,708 — and there are six additional schools with more than 3,000 students.
“I’m just giving you a head’s up,” Robertson said. “It’s coming.”
At issue for Richmond Hill is travel, particularly for sports such as softball and basketball that traditionally have region opponents play twice a season and often seek a neutral site for championship tournaments.
When Richmond Hill was in Region 3-AAA, the region’s basketball tournament was routinely held at Burke County High School in Waynesboro — a 106-mile trip one way.
With Effingham County High School, the only other AAAAAA school nearby, Richmond Hill could find itself having to play in Region 1-AAAAAA with schools such as Camden County, Lowndes County and Colquitt County.
Brunswick found itself in that boat last reclassification, but this year’s enrollment figures show it again fits into Class AAAAA, reportedly due to some redistricting.
There are precedents Richmond Hill can use in an appeal. In the GHSA’s last reclassification process in late 2011, Effingham — then already an AAAAAA school — was given a waiver to play in AAAAA due to its distance from schools of a similar size. The GHSA calls it the “isolation” rule.
Bryan County High School’s enrollment is projected to again be 545, which will keep it in Class AA. The school moved to that classification in 2012 after competing for years in Class A.
Richmond Hill, which in the 1990s competed in Class A, has steadily grown and now competes in Class AAAAA.