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HILLSVILLE — The Carroll County School Board has no intention for its high school sports teams to take the field against distant Franklin County and Patrick Henry, according to action taken at its August meeting.
The two schools in the Virginia High School League’s proposed River Ridge District are too far away and have the advantage of too many more students than Carroll for the playing field to be level, high school Principal Chuck Thompson and members of the school board agreed.
VHSL officials proposed changing the current three-tiered classification system into six with 52 schools per class, Thompson explained at the beginning of a lengthy discussion.
Carroll’s current Southwest District will disappear, with the high school joining Blacksburg, Cave Spring, Christiansburg, Franklin County, Patrick Henry in Roanoke, Hidden Valley, Pulaski County and Salem in the new River Ridge District.
VHSL put Carroll, with its 1,195 student population, in 4A — 80 students above the cutoff for 3A, the principal said. He expects that will have an effect on Carroll’s championship chances.
“You’ll also notice that schools with 850 students are in a district with 2,200 students,” he explained. “However, schools don’t have to play other schools if they are three classifications above, so only us, Pulaski, Salem and Patrick Henry will have to play Franklin County because we’re 4A and 5A schools.”
That means Christiansburg and Cave Spring won’t have to play Franklin County even though all three will be in the same district and only 30 minutes from each other.
In addition, Carroll will be in Conference 24 with eight teams, while Conference 23 has only five teams, Thompson noted.
Though VHSL officials have repeatedly said “equity and balance” was the goal in making these changes, Thompson objects to the results for Carroll.
“In my opinion they have failed — you can not have equity and balance when schools of 850 [students] are placed in a district with 2,200[-student] schools and then you don’t have to play them,” the principal told the school board.
"There’s no equity and balance when Conference 24 has eight teams and Conference 23 has five teams. Equity and balance does not exist when we’re asked to travel to Franklin County, a 2 hour and 15 minute trip by bus,” Thompson said. “I think the idea that they’re wanting to create equity and balance is good; however, the reality of it is it’s just not very equitable.”
In a typical basketball season, Carroll would have to play every team in River Ridge, which means playing schools with 850 students up to Franklin County’s 2,200.
After district play, all teams go to their respective conferences, so Carroll would play all seven 4A schools. Thompson said the top two from there will go on.
What matters in the district is seeding — that’s what district play is all about, the principal said. It seeds teams for conference play.
(Football works differently than other sports.)
With this proposal, travel time is a huge concern for Thompson.
“Traveling to and from Grundy [in the current configuration] ... and having students arrive home so late and then be expected to be on time the next day and be prepared to learn, it’s a nightmare,” he said. “Having Franklin County in our district does little to ease that burden...”
Schools sports revenue could fall because it’s possible fewer fans will go along to the far-away games.
The crowded schedule for district play also means that Carroll will only have two slots available for local rivalries, like Galax, Grayson, Floyd and Mount Airy, N.C.
Thompson also said that Franklin County’s 1,000 additional students give Carroll a handicap in earning enough points to go to playoffs. That’s true of Patrick Henry, too, as that school has around 800 more students than CCHS.
A written appeal to VHSL has been denied, so Carroll officials plan to appeal in person in September.
“We can appeal having Franklin County placed in our district. This seems to be the appeal that has the best chance of succeeding because no school in the River Ridge district is in support of Franklin County joining,” Thompson said. “They are all pinning their hopes on us because we are the ones who can claim the most travel hardship.”
The River Ridge District does make more sense for Carroll to be in, as the Piedmont District would require buses to cross Lovers Leap Mountain and drive around three hours to Halifax County.
“We had to ask ourselves what district prepares us the most for conference play, because conference play, that’s when you’re playing schools of your size and that’s how you advance to post-season,” he said.
School Board Member Reggie Gardner asked if it would help if the elected officials approved a resolution that Carroll would not travel to either Franklin County or Patrick Henry.
“I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt,” Thompson answered.
Carroll could still score points, even without playing those two teams? Gardner asked.
Carroll would still score points with whatever teams they filled their schedule with, how many points would depend on if they won or lost, the principal confirmed.
It’s been suggested that representatives of the school board and Carroll athletics attend the appeal, Superintendent Strader Blankenship noted. That would require moving the date of the September school board meeting.
Chairman Brian Spencer recommended that Gardner be the school system’s main representative at the appeal.
Gardner then made a motion to draft a resolution saying that Carroll had no intention of traveling to Franklin County or Patrick Henry for sports competition.
The motion was approved unanimously.
Later in the meeting, the school board member rescheduled its next meeting for Sept. 13.