Central High School administrators have filed an appeal with the Virginia High School League to move the school back down to Class 2 for the final two years of the current alignment cycle that ends following the 2022-23 academic year.
Central Athletic Director Justin Broughman said Monday that the school, which moved up to Class 3 in 2019, filed the appeal last week. Though the VHSL alignment cycles last four years, the league allows for mid-cycle adjustments based on changes in member schools’ average daily membership (ADM). Central, which has fallen below the cutoff point for Class 2 status based on its ADM as of March 31, was listed among the schools eligible to request to move down in VHSL classification for the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years.
Central’s March 31 ADM, according to the VHSL, was 728 students. Schools seeking realignment to Class 2 during the mid-cycle adjustment period can’t exceed an ADM of 769.
Per a timeline provided by the VHSL, the league’s Appeal Committee will hear all appeals and make recommendations for the final alignment plan to the Executive Committee on Sept. 2. The VHSL Executive Committee will then approve the final alignment plan for 2021-22 and 2022-23 on Sept. 23.
“I don’t know all the ins and outs of the alignment process,” Broughman said, “but I think that we have a sound, rational case.”
Broughman said when he and Central Principal Lori Swortzel discussed the school’s opportunity to appeal for a move back to Class 2, they asked themselves if the school’s athletic teams would be better off at the Class 2 or Class 3 levels. Broughman said that when particularly considering individual sports like swimming, cross country and track and field, it benefits Central’s athletes to move back to Class 2, where state qualifying standards are less difficult to attain.
Broughman noted that last school year, the Falcons had just one state qualifier in cross country and didn’t have a swimmer qualify for the state meet for first time in recent memory.
“Really, no matter what, there’s gonna be some that were better off staying up and others that were better off moving down,” Broughman said, “and ultimately at the end of the day we looked at the entirety of the program and said it was probably in our kids’ best interest overall to be down.”
A move back down to Class 2 and Region 2B, where Central had competed previously, also makes sense geographically.
Broughman said that as a current member of Region 3B, which houses 13 schools from a smattering of districts from different areas of the state including Northern Virginia, Fredericksburg and Richmond, Central’s trips to away games average 90 miles – or about two hours of drive time on a bus – one way.
Meanwhile, as a member of Region 2B, Central would be looking at an average distance of 50 miles for road games, Broughman said. He added that if you remove Buckingham County, which is about 135 miles from Woodstock, from that equation, the average drive time is only 35 minutes for the Falcons.
“Last year alone we went to Goochland for volleyball, we went to James Monroe for football, for basketball we went down to William Monroe, in the spring we would’ve been going to Maggie Walker for track. It was just all kinds of long trips we would have to do,” Broughman said.
“It’s a lot of long trips and to do some of those during the weekday, we’re really trying to cut down on that. I feel like Region 3B is sort of the ‘region’ … that’s not in any way regional, like everybody that seems to be left over, that didn’t fit comfortably somewhere else got put in Region 3B.”
A move back to Region 2B would also allow Central to rejoin county rivals Stonewall Jackson and Strasburg, which are both members of the Bull Run District. Broughman noted that while the VHSL places schools in certain regions based on each school’s request, as long as it is a “rational” one, Central would have to request membership to the Bull Run from the district itself if and when Central is granted its appeal to move back down.
Central competed in the Bull Run District from 2011-2018 before joining the Northwestern District upon moving from Class 2 to Class 3 in 2019. A mid-cycle move in 2021 would be yet another in a string of reclassifications and district realignments for Central, whose ADM has tended to float along the Class 2-Class 3 border since the VHSL expanded to six classes in 2013.
Though Broughman called the constant shuffling a “pain,” particularly when addressing football schedules that are often constructed several years in advance, he said he’s fine with the frequent movement if it’s done with the best interest of Central’s students in mind.
“That’ll be a little bit of a headache,” Broughman said of the scheduling challenges that would follow another move, “but I’ll figure it out.”