Looking Ahead — The 2020-22 Reclassification Cycle

Believe it or not, but reclassification has been on my mind a lot over the past four months.

The Arkansas Activities Association released its football conference alignments this summer, then it announced the new conference alignments for other sports last week as a result of Proposal No. 9 being passed. Now schools have just a few more days to appeal the AAA’s decision, or those will be finalized for the 2018-20 cycle.

So what could possibly spark my mind and get me thinking about reclassification again? Blame an article in Tuesday’s edition of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for it.

The article was about the Little Rock School District’s upcoming plans to redraw its attendance zones. It also includes the anticipated opening of a new $55 million high school in the southwest part of the city.

The new school, which is expected to open during the 2020-21 school year, will replace two current Little Rock high schools — McClellan and Fair — and will rival Central in school attendance by drawing students from another school. District superintendent Michael Poore, who previously had the same position at Bentonville, said the new school will definitely have the attendance numbers to be a Class 7A school.

This new school will cause a drastic change in the Class 7A landscape when it comes time to do the 2020-22 reclassification cycle. It will also lead to something many think would never happen — the split of the two Fort Smith schools, Northside and Southside, into different conferences.

If the new Little Rock school does have the attendance numbers to rival Central, which was listed as the state’s ninth-largest high school in the numbers the AAA used for the 2018-20 cycle, it will cause Van Buren to fall to Class 6A status. It will leave Class 7A with seven schools in Northwest Arkansas, seven schools in Central Arkansas — and Fort Smith Northside and Fort Smith Southside by themselves to decide who goes where because the AAA handbook requires football conferences to have eight teams.

So who will have the final word on who goes east and who goes north? Stay tuned on that one.
Meanwhile, this will also lead to a domino effect that will be felt throughout the state, and I will illustrate by using the 2018-20 reclassification numbers. With Van Buren falling to Class 6A, it would bump the smallest 6A school — Greenwood — to Class 5A to replace one of the Little Rock schools to be dissolved.

The other Little Rock school would have to be replaced by the largest 4A school, meaning Pulaski Mills would go back to 5A status. Booneville, the largest 3A school, then would move back to 4A, while Marianna would move back up to 3A.

Here’s what it will look like for the other sports.

Van Buren still drops in classification, but this time to 5A and causes Paragould to fall to 4A and replace one of the dissolved Little Rock schools. The other dissolved school would have to be replaced in 4A by the largest 3A school — this time, Trumann — while Cossatot River goes from 2A to 3A and probably Caddo Hills and Mountain Pine go from 1A to 2A.

Of course, those attendance numbers have two years to change and cause schools to change positions.

Henry Apple

Henry Apple

Henry Apple is a veteran sports reporter for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. His primary beat is Bentonville and Bentonville West, as well as topics that include state schools and the Arkansas Activities Association. During the spring, he handles high school track in Northwest Arkansas. He is a lifelong Arkansas resident.
Henry Apple

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