Wednesday, October 07, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> AHSAA decides JNPSD to be 6A

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville athletic teams are slated to compete in the 6A Classification for the next two-year classification cycle. That is despite a current enrollment that is hundreds of students short of the smallest 6A school, according to the numbers released by the Arkansas High School Activities Association for the 2016-18 cycle.

A contingent of representatives for Jacksonville appealed the ruling in July after the new numbers were released. That appeal was denied.

The issue surrounds the upcoming break of the new Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District from the Pulaski County Special School District. When the numbers were released in April and schools were placed in their classifications, the AHSAA counted 100 percent of the then current North Pulaski student count as part of the new JNPSD.

However, only about half of the former North Pulaski area, as zoned by PCSSD, will be in the new JNPSD. The rest will be in PCSSD’s zone for Sylvan Hills.

The process for determining each school’s classification is taking a three-year average of each school’s population in grades 9-11, as reported by the Arkansas Department of Education.

The largest school in Class 6A for the next cycle will be West Memphis with 1,303 students, based on the three-year average of ADE reports. The smallest will be Greenwood with 837.

Jacksonville’s and North Pulaski’s combined student population average used to determine the next cycle’s classification was 1,185, which would make it the 21st largest district in the state and place Jacksonville in Class 6A as the fifth-largest school in that 16-school classification.

The PCSSD’s eight-day student count shows Jacksonville with only 618 students in grades 9-11, and North Pulaski with 217.

Meanwhile, Sylvan Hills’ average three-year count used by the Arkansas Activities Association was 712, making it a 5A school, but itseight-day enrollment this year was 1,070, which would make it 6A with the 22nd largest enrollment in the state.

Jacksonville’s appeal was before the school year began and those numbers were not available, but AHSAA executive director Lance Taylor said the deadline is past for any further appeals.

“We have to go by the laws the member schools have voted on, and we have to do it the way the schools have told us,” said Taylor. “The perception is out there that the board can make by laws or change our constitution. But if you read our book, we really don’t have the power to do that.”

Taylor cited a note under Rule 7 of the handbook concerning classification of schools that deals with consolidation.

The note reads: “When schools consolidate, enrollment numbers from each school will be combined for classification purposes.”

Jacksonville’s appeal was based largely on its interpretation that the new JNPSD was not a consolidation of Jacksonville and North Pulaski, but a dissolving of North Pulaski into two schools, Jacksonville and Sylvan Hills.

The eight-day enrollment numbers bear that out. There has already been a large exodus of students from North Pulaski High School, and Jacksonville appears to have received very few of them.

The district lines for the new JNPSD do not cover all of the area previously zoned by PCSSD for North Pulaski. One survey indicates that about half of NPHS’ student population currently live in Pulaski County’s zone for Sylvan Hills.

Taylor said that information was not presented during Jacksonville’s appeal; and indicated that it likely wouldn’t have made a difference in the decision to deny.

“We did not hear that,” Taylor said. “We did ask them who all was coming back or who was leaving, and they could not tell us. Those students who were attending North Pulaski, but live in Sylvan Hills’ zone, could still go to the new district if they chose to. Or Jacksonville could make their students who are currently going somewhere else, come back. That’s all school choice and that’ll be a decision for that new board. And I don’t know about all the desegregation and all that, or how that will effect them.

“We just didn’t have a clear idea of how many students Jacksonville will have once this next cycle begins. But we have a process in place, and so that’s what we went by.

“These numbers can change for lots of reasons, and the line has to be drawn at some point that says this is the process, and this is the deadline for changing it.”

The new district will no longer be a part of the magnet school program. It is making many students who live in Jacksonville, but attend other schools as part of that program, return to JNP next year. That will likely increase its enrollment next year, but probably not enough to leap in classification.