The class-jumping and district-hopping carousel started spinning again Monday when the Virginia High School League released its 2021-22 mid-cycle alignment adjustment report.
It has become a rite of passage every two years of the four-year alignment cycle for schools to move up or down in classification, or switch to a new district.
Monday’s report has Waynesboro and Staunton on the move when the 2021-22 school year begins.
Waynesboro has requested a move to the Shenandoah District, leaving the Valley District where it has been a member for decades. Meanwhile, Staunton’s enrollment numbers are pushing the Storm into Class 3 competition from Class 2.
The Little Giants were on the verge of joining the Shenandoah a couple years ago, but at the last minute opted to remain in the Valley.
The expected addition of Waynesboro to the Shenandoah means all five Augusta County schools, Staunton and the Giants will be together in the same district for the first time. The current Shenandoah schools support the move.
New Waynesboro athletic director Jeremiah Major stressed the change still isn’t official.
“Voting still has to be done,” he said. “But the move would be good for the school and the community.”
Major said the biggest holdup is football scheduling as Waynesboro doesn’t want to leave fellow Valley members in a bind.
Waynesboro’s pending departure from the Valley would leave the district with only five schools: Broadway, Harrisonburg, Rockbridge County, Spotswood and Turner Ashby. A sixth school will be added down the road when the City of Harrisonburg builds its planned second school. There has also been talk of East Rockingham coming into the Valley at some point, which makes a lot of sense, especially since the redrawing of Rockingham County school lines are taking students out of Spotswood and placing them at East Rock.
When Staunton goes up, that gives the Shenandoah four Class 3 schools (Fort Defiance, Staunton, Waynesboro, Wilson Memorial); two Class 2 (Buffalo Gap, Stuarts Draft); and one Class 1 (Riverheads). The Cougars did not miss by many students being able to move up to Class 3.
Staunton is currently the biggest Class 2 school in the state at 732 students. The Storm’s new enrollment count for the final two years of the present cycle is 772, which is a mere three students over the five percent adjustment number of 769.
Staunton athletic director David Tibbs said the school isn’t going to appeal.
“We are going to grin and bear it,” he said, adding Staunton will likely be the smallest Class 3 school in the state. “We are eager to see when the process takes us after one last year in Class 2.”
The Storm would shift their postseason play from Region 2B into the highly competitive Region 3C with the likes of old Valley rivals Broadway, Spotswood and TA, along with Heritage-Lynchburg and Lord Botetourt.
Ironically a Staunton-Lord Botetourt football rematch would be back on the table come playoff time.
The two teams met for the first time last fall, which the powerhouse Cavaliers won 77-0 at Staunton Memorial Stadium. The lopsided outcome left hard feelings, prompting Staunton to drop the scheduled game this year at LB in Daleville.
One area school that will be missing from Region 3C is Western Albemarle, which is scheduled to move up to Class 4. The Warriors have dominated at the Class 3 level, winning multiple state titles in cross country, indoor and outdoor track, and swimming.
After the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years wrap up the four-year cycle, it is anyone’s guess what the VHSL landscape will look like. There have been discussions of dropping from the current six classifications to four. For decades Virginia only had three classifications before going to six, a move that has drawn its fair share of criticism, namely from watered-down competition.
“It will be interesting to see what the VHSL decides to do,” Tibbs said.