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Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / Heritage head coach E.K. Slaughter gets his team's attention. The Heritage Generals visited the Ridgeland Panthers in a GHSA football game on October 16, 2020.

The Georgia High School Association moved one step closer this week to raising the student out-of-district multiplier from 2.0 to 3.0 after Monday's meeting of the organization's Executive Committee officially recommended the change for the upcoming reclassification cycle.

By vote of 56-15-3 the motion passed to raise the multiplier in an effort to even the athletic playing field, which has seen private schools and city schools win an inordinate and increasing amount of state championships over the past few years. As a result, if, as expected, the recommendation is adopted by the reclassification committee, students designated as "out-of-district" will be counted three times in this year's FTE numbers. FTE (Full-Time Equivalent) refers to data collected for Quality Basic Education funding and is based on student enrollment and the education services provided by local school systems to students.

The committee also passed a proposal that will allow schools to be bumped up to the state's highest classification, 7A. Schools currently in Class A, which is already divided between public and private, cannot be moved up based on the multiplier.

Based on current FTE numbers the result would push St. Pius X and Woodward Academy into Class AAAAAAA, with Blessed Trinity, Marist and Greater Atlanta Christian moving to Class AAAAAA.

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Ringgold head football coach Robert Akins watches from the sideline during their prep football game against LFO at Lakeview Fort Oglethorpe High School on Friday, Sept. 14, 2018, in Fort Oglethorpe, Tenn.

Westminster and Benedictine would move to Class AAAA and Lovett and Riverside Military to Class AAA. City school Carrollton would jump to 7A, with Buford and Cartersville going to 6A.

The decision, which was seen as a compromise to moving private schools into their own classification, was met mostly with approval by area coaches.

"Private schools and public schools who allow kids to attend their schools who are out of zone have a big competitive advantage," Heritage football coach E.K. Slaughter said. "I think it is only fair that the GHSA uses a strong multiplier to even the playing field. If a school doesn't like the multiplier then simply don't allow kids to attend who are out of zone and they won't have to deal with it. Seems like a simple enough solution to me."

Ringgold football coach Robert Akins coached at Boyd Buchanan when the TSAAA implemented a similar multiplier and remembers the strain it put on the athletic programs.

"Just speaking from experience, 3.0 was very detrimental for us at BBS," he said. "We had to jump two classifications, even though we did not give financial aid to any student/athletes on any team.

"I do believe that private schools that give financial aid and schools that can take out of zone student/athletes need to be classified up or private schools need to form their own association. This probably would have been the correct decision for the good of everyone in our state."

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Staff Photo by Robin Rudd/ Josh Robinson is the head coach for Northwest. The Northwest Whitfield High Bruins visited the Calhoun Yellow Jackets in a preseason scrimmage in Calhoun on August 9, 2019.

Northwest Whitfield football coach Josh Robinson, after talking with several area coaches, decided to crunch the numbers using the current FTE numbers using the 3.0 multiplier and came up with interesting results.

None of the 19 schools from Catoosa, Walker, Dade, Whitfield, Murray and Gordon counties, including city schools Calhoun and Dalton, would be affected by the new multiplier. That wasn't the case two years ago as Calhoun was forced to move up from 3A to 5A due to its out-of-district student count.

"Of course, numbers can change based on the new FTE, but it looks like there won't be any movement around here," Robinson said. "I've talked to a bunch of worried coaches, so I wanted to see for myself. There are rumors the private schools want to form their own association because of this, but nobody really thinks it will happen."

Once the 2021 FTE numbers are released the Reclassification Committee will meet to begin assigning schools to classes and regions for the next cycle, which begins next year. Schools may appeal their designation.

Contact Lindsey Young at lyoung@timesfreepress.com; follow him on Twitter @youngsports22.

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Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton / Calhoun (14) Christian Lewis hands the ball off to (21) Caden Williams on Friday. Calhoun High School hosted McCallie in Calhoun on Friday, August 27, 2021.

 

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