VHSL Denies Fleming, PH’s Request to Move to AA

On January 19, Roanoke City Public Schools deputy superintendent Curt Baker filed a request to the Virginia High School League (VHSL) that both William Fleming and Patrick Henry high schools be allowed to participate in athletics at the Group AA level.

One week later, that request has been denied.

The VHSL’s Redistricting and Reclassification Committee rejected the request on Tuesday afternoon. William Fleming and Patrick Henry may appeal the decision before March 17.

The motivation behind the schools’ request was twofold: concerns about the academic performance of its student-athletes, and budget constraints. Both issues have a common denominator: travel difficulties.

Fleming and Patrick Henry, along with Western Valley District foes Halifax, Franklin County and G.W. Danville are the only schools west of Richmond that compete at the Group AAA level. As such, both Roanoke City schools have to travel a long ways – an average of over 50 miles per school on road trips.

“It’s a big issue,” William Fleming Athletic Director Matt Kesler said. “When you factor in money for buses and meals for the kids, it’s just not good for the budget for the schools. And it’s not good for the kids’ grades.”

Patrick Henry AD Patricia Sheedy agreed.

“For most road games the kids get out of school at least a couple of hours early, and they get back really late, and they have to spend a lot of time making up work,” she said.

Both also noted that the distance between the WVD members lessens both excitement and revenue for home games.

“We’re not making any money on our home games, because the fans don’t travel all that way over here,” Kesler said. Sheedy concurred, admitting that “gate receipts would be higher,” if Patrick Henry competed in Group AA, with other area schools like Cave Spring, Hidden Valley and Salem.

Both athletic directors admitted that the request was a long shot, in particular because of the size of the schools. Patrick Henry has an enrollment of over 1,800 students, well above the cutoff between Group AA and Group AAA schools. William Fleming has an enrollment of around 1,500 students, though as Kesler noted, “we’re the lowest populated AAA school in the state.”

Should the schools appeal Tuesday’s decision by the Redistricting and Reclassification Committee and win, relief from their travel burdens wouldn’t come immediately. The earliest that any changes would take effect is 2011.

By Matt Reeve
[email protected]

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  1. Might “concerns about the academic performance of it’s student athletes” be investigated a little further????? Wonder if it sort of means that all the money spent on such activities and it HINDERS performance in the classroom????

    Hey, Cortney Penn….”makes me go hummmmmm”

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