Friday, May 01, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> JHS counts all of NPHS for newest AAA cycle

Leader sports editor

The Arkansas High School Activities Association released the classification numbers for the 2016-18 cycle after business hours on Thursday, and Jacksonville High School’s attributed numbers will not reflect the actual number of students that will be attending JHS once it becomes its own district. Every member of the board of directors was out for the entire day on Friday, unable to comment on Jacksonville’s larger than expected jump in enrollment numbers.

Jacksonville expects to increase in enrollment because of the students it will receive from North Pulaski once the new Jacksonville-North Pulaski district opens in 2016.

It doesn’t expect that enrollment to nearly double, as the new classification numbers indicate, because a little more than half of North Pulaski’s current student population lives in Sylvan Hills’ zone and will likely attend SHHS.

Jacksonville had 680 students as of the 2014-16 cycle and played in the 5A classification, but jumped to 1,184 for the 2016-18 cycle. That makes JHS the second largest 6A school by AHSAA enrollment numbers.

Jacksonville was attributed 100 percent of North Pulaski’s high school enrollment because JHS and NPHS are technically considered to be consolidating, thereby making NP athletes immediately eligible to play for Jacksonville, regardless of which zone they live in.

North Pulaski’s doors will remain open for the 2015-16 school year, but NPHS athletes will be allowed to play football for Jacksonville because NP has canceled its football program due to lack of participation.

Furthermore, because Jacksonville and North Pulaski are considered to be consolidating, current NP students can still enroll at Jacksonville for 2016, regardless of where they live, and be immediately eligible to participate in sports.

Sylvan Hills athletic director Denny Tipton believes the ruling and enrollment numbers are fair, even if they’re not technically accurate.

“Right now, because NP is considered to be consolidating with Jacksonville only, we can’t even talk to the kids that live in our zone and are supposed to come here, while Jacksonville can,” Tipton said. It’s really one school consolidating with two, but it’s technically recognized as just NP and Jacksonville.”

Even though Jacksonville nearly doubled, it expected to move up to 6A anyway, although it didn’t expect to nearly be 7A.

There’s a sliver lining for Sylvan Hills as well. SHHS jumped from 639 last cycle to 712 for the next one, just based on growth within its own zone. But that did not move the school up to 6A. Because many NP students will go to SHHS, Sylvan Hills will almost certainly compete in 5A for two years with 6A enrollment numbers.

“In a way, that is a break for us,” Tipton said. “But I would take the numbers right now if they would let us have contact with our kids.”