Region II does not support Lewisville appeal

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By Travis Jenkins

If Lewisville High School is going to win its appeal to stay in Class A, it will do so without the support of its current region mates.

Last week, the South Carolina High School League, the governing body of athletics in the state, unveiled its realignment proposal. Realignment is a process of grouping schools into athletic classes and regions based on location and enrollment size. The process takes place every two years. Per the proposed plan, the league plans to move Lewisville up from the Class A ranks, where the school has always competed, to the larger AA division. In the 135-day enrollment numbers upon which the current realignment plan was based. Lewisville was Class A’s largest school with 365 students, making them the 171st largest school in the state. Per the newest numbers, Lewisville’s enrollment is up by 15 to 380, but the school is now only the 172nd largest in the state, with East Clarendon’s growth out-pacing Lewisville and several new, larger schools opening across the state. The proposed move would make Lewisville one of the smallest AA schools in the state and it would be the smallest team in its new region by far, as Andrew Jackson has enrollment of 633, Buford has 624, Pageland Central has 607, Chesterfield 510, Lee Central 637 and North Central 469. They would be leaving a region that includes Great Falls, Timmonsville (both of which have 193 students), Lamar (323), The Governor’s School (250) and McBee (which stands to be the new largest Class A school at 323 students).

Lewisville immediately announced it would appeal the decision and attempt to stay in Class A. One of the first steps in the process of appealing a move is receiving the support of other teams in your current region for staying put. Lewisville Athletic Director Rusty Pemberton said he was disappointed with the results.

“Nobody supported us staying up. Not one school,” he said.

The ultimate decision for the votes of schools falls on the principal. While the support of McBee, Lamar, Timmonsville, Great Falls and The Governor’s School would certainly have helped, not having it is not a complete deal-breaker.

“We’re still moving forward with our appeal,” Pemberton said.

Lewisville could approach its appeal from several different angles. First, it is within 50 students of what is slated to be the largest school in Class A. When the league went to five classes last year after decades of a four-class system (to reduce the difference between the largest and smallest schools in each class) it included a provision that a school within 50 students of the cutoff at the top or bottom of any class could be moved up or down to help balance a region where needed.

In all five schools are moving up from Class A to AA, but no AA schools are being moved down to Class A. Moving Lewisville, Dixie and Hannah-Pamplico (both of which have only 354 students) to AA will create three, seven-team AA regions (so those regions were not lacking for enough teams) and leave in its wake three Class A regions with only five teams total and only four that field football teams. So each of those three regions will only have three region football games. Class A is also the most volatile, because of smaller enrollment. It’s not uncommon for Class A schools to be closed or consolidated (two closed in the last year) or for schools to struggle to field teams. If a school closed or a team either went to eight-man football or simply didn’t field a football team at all, that could possible leave three different regions with only three schools that play football.

Moving Lewisville out and not replacing them also creates some other problems. To crown a region champion, have an all-region team or a region player of the year, a region must have at least three schools participating in a sport. Lewisville leaving Region II-A would leave only two schools playing volleyball or competing in boys or girls cross-country. A Title IX argument could be made, since that would have a more adverse effect on girls athletics in the region. Title IV reads in part “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance." High schools have been successfully sued under Title IX for a lack of girls athletic opportunities in the past.

Lewisville could argue that the difference in size between it and its current region mates is less than the difference between them and their proposed region mates. Lewisville could also appeal that if they are going to AA, that they be moved to the region centered around Columbia, where the schools would not be as large (only one of the five has a more than 200 student advantage in size over Lewisville) and the travel would be comparable. That region is slated to only have five schools as of now, so the addition of Lewisville would give it an even number, which makes for easier scheduling.

Lewisville’s appeal will be heard on August 24.