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The Georgia High School Association released its classifications for the 2020-21 school year and, as expected, Calhoun High School was hit the hardest among northwest Georgia schools.

Calhoun will move up two classifications to AAAAA after its adjusted enrollment figures swelled the number to 1,481 from the actual number of 1,217. The GHSA used a multiplier to determine enrollment numbers for each school, with any student classified as living out of the school zone counting twice. The organization will hear appeals next Tuesday.

According to football coach Clay Stephenson, Calhoun will appeal the decision.

"It is what it is," said Stephenson, who noted that the school was 20 students over the cutoff to be placed in Class AAAA. "I think everybody affected will appeal. Everybody has kind of known, so we've had an appeal ready. Our travel would almost double, and while that's not a big deal for football, for other sports that travel three times a week it makes for some long days."

The only other area school affected is LaFayette, which dropped from Class AAAA to AAA and likely will join Rockmart, up from Class AA, as new members of Region 6-AAA that already includes Coahulla Creek, Sonoraville, Murray County, North Murray, Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe and Ringgold. Haralson County, in that region currently, will drop to Class AA.

Northwest Whitfield narrowly missed having to move up to Class AAAAA. The school's 1,437 enrollment is the highest in AAAA, just 13 fewer than 5A's smallest school, Walnut Grove.

Football coach Josh Robinson is still a fan of the multiplier even with the close call.

"We have 137 out-of-district kids, and 68 of them are teachers' kids not at Northwest High School but in the Whitfield County system," Robinson said. "They still counted double against us, but thankfully we were still able to squeak through there.

"That multiplier kind of levels things out. That will make it a little more even across the board, especially in the 'country club' sports that have been dominated by private schools. This should help alleviate some of that."

Few private schools weren't affected. Marist, which annually has played up, stays in Class AAAA, where it's joined by Greater Atlanta Christian. Blessed Trinity and Woodward Academy moved to AAAAA, while St. Pius X is now in AAAAAA. Benedictine moves from AA to AAA, while Lovett is classified as AA but could elect to stay in AAA.

Dalton will remain in Class AAAAAA, where its region could gain state football power Rome, which is moving up from AAAAA, and maybe Buford, also moving up.

Northwest Whitfield will be joined by Region 6 schools Southeast Whitfield, Heritage, Ridgeland, Pickens and Gilmer as remaining in AAAA. Whether the GHSA will leave the region with six schools or add Cedartown to replace LaFayette will be determined after appeals are heard.

Region 7-AA, which is returning current schools Gordon Central, Chattooga, Dade County, Pepperell, Model and Coosa, might add Bremen and/or Haralson County, though those schools could also be paired with Columbus-area AA schools.

The most sweeping change is in Class A, where public and private schools will be completely split for the first time.

Trion football coach Justin Brown believes his school will now be a part of a much more manageable public school region that includes rival Gordon Lee, Bowdon, Mount Zion (Carroll) and Armuchee, which is down from AA. Trion and Gordon Lee currently are in a subdivided region that has four public schools and 11 private schools for football and 18 teams in basketball, four of them public.

The GHSA also is eliminating power rankings that have determined much of the postseason fields in Class A.

"I imagine it's going to be some kind of relief after battling them for eight years," Brown said of not having to compete against private schools. "It will be neat going back to our old format without the power rankings. It's a peace of mind that you can play some teams that won't hurt your playoff chances from the get-go."

Contact Lindsey Young at lyoung@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6296; follow on Twitter @youngsports22.

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