The Georgia High School Association reclassifies schools every two years. In the most recent reclassification which was finalized on January 13, all schools (private and public) that enroll more than 3% of their students from outside their home counties were bumped up one classification. The reason for this change is that the majority of GHSA schools were of the opinion that schools that have open enrollments tend to have stronger athletic programs than schools that limit their enrollments to their defined attendance areas. As a result, after 16 years of competing as a Class AA school, GAC will move up to Class AAA for the foreseeable future. The Spartans were placed in Region 7AAA and will be in the same region with public schools Dawson County, East Hall, Fannin County, Lumpkin County, North Hall and Union County.
Schools that have been in the same region 6AA with GAC in past years such as Lovett, Pace, and Westminster were placed in Region 5AAA. Wesleyan and Holy Innocents', in line with their smaller enrollments, were placed in Class A. The remaining current region 6AA schools (BEST Academy, Hapeville Charter, and KIPP Atlanta) were placed in Class AA in Region 6AA. The only private schools that will compete in Class AA will be Benedictine (all boys, single sex school) and St. Vincent's (all girls, single sex school), both located in Savannah.
What does the realignment mean for GAC going forward?
It certainly means more travel time. With the other six schools being located in north Georgia, our new region is more spread out geographically with GAC the furthest south and Union County the furthest north. In terms of competition, playing in Class AAA will mean tougher competition overall, especially when it comes to state playoffs.
Head football coach Tim Hardy has scheduled Lovett and Westminster as two of our non-region games for the next two years, along with AAAA St. Pius and a trip to Denver, Colorado to play nationally ranked Valor Christian. Obviously, this will be one of the most challenging non-region football schedules in GAC history. Coach Hardy believes that this tough non-region schedule will prepare his Spartan team well for the six region games as well as for the state playoffs.
GAC should compete well in all sports in the new region alignment.
Just as with football, our other head coaches will seek to augment their region games with strong competition primarily from non-region schools in AAA and above.
Athletic Director Tim Vick serves on GHSA's Reclassification Committee and was involved in a number of meetings that resulted in the eventual reclassification and region placements. His conclusion was that even though GAC was placed in the new region with no familiar rivals, that the decision was the best available for all schools, based overall on geographical considerations. Traveling to the other Region 7AAA schools will eliminate fighting the difficult traffic patterns inside I-285 as our travel will be northward.
From a historical perspective, all the way back to 1968, GAC began as a Class C school in the GHSA. Then in 1972, the Spartans were reclassified to Class B when Class C was eliminated. In 1978, Class B was eliminated and GAC was reclassified to Class A, followed by a move up to Class AA in 2000. In the fall of 2016, the next appropriate move for the Spartans will be upward once again to Class AAA.