Macon still waiting on NCHSAA decision

Macon still waiting on NCHSAA decision

Macon County Schools may have to wait until the end of the summer for a decision on the athletic division restructuring coming down the pipe from the North Carolina High School Association. In the meantime, the board continues to hear from Macon Early College families who want to remain a part of high school sports in the county. 

“I must express strong opposition to any decision that would deny student athletes of MEC equal access to school sponsored athletics,” said Adrian Holt, parent to an MEC student athlete, in a letter to the school board.

As things stand now, Franklin High School is a 3A school, placing it in the second highest division within North Carolina high school sports. Divisions are determined by the size of a school. Current classifications for high schools go as high as 4A, but the NCHSAA is currently considering a change that would split high schools in the state into eight divisions, 1A through 8A.

“That is a pretty big, significant jump, but officials believe the growth in the state of North Carolina in the next several years is going to be unbelievable,” said Chief Academic Officer and Director of Federal Programs Mickey Noe during a March 25 school board meeting. The reason they’re growing their classifications is because of how many teams you can fit in the playoffs.” 

The realignment into the expanded classifications would not take effect until the summer of 2025 and would use data from the first month of the 2024-25 school year. NCHSAA has not yet determined what the cutoff will be for the ADM numbers within each classification.

There are currently about 25 Macon Early College students that participate in athletics with Franklin High School and because of this, the entire student body of MEC counts in the Average Daily Membership of FHS in the NCHSAA data that determines the school’s classification. In fact, even if just one MEC student participated in FHS sports, the whole student body of the early college would count in the FHS count for its sports division.

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The school board received two letters from MEC parents during its last meeting advocating for MEC students’ right to participate in high school sports.

“Many of these students have made significant personal and academic choices based on the availability of these athletic opportunities,” said Holt. “These students along with their families made a pivotal decision to attend MEC which for some was influenced significantly by the assurance that they would be able to engage in school sponsored sports programs.”

Part of the fear about moving up in division is that FHS athletics would be required to drive much further distances to compete, causing more time out of school for student athletes and longer hours for support staff.

“Being in charge of curriculum for the county, I don’t want our students to have to drive three or four hours for a game,” said Noe. “And on the other side you don’t want to deny any student the opportunity to play sports.”

Now, the school system is awaiting a decision from the state, which could come as late as just days before the start of the new school year.

“We really don’t have a whole lot of new information, most of it just kind of lies on what the state decides to do,” Noe told the board during its April 22 meeting.

But the school system is trying to plan for whatever may come and has discussed the idea of Macon Early College starting its own sport program with teams independent of FHS.

“We’re trying to be proactive and come up with two or three different plans depending on what the state passes down to us,” said Noe.

The realignments come from NCHSAA every four years. But the ADM information that determines which schools are placed in each division is not released until a few days before the school year starts.

“I’d love to tell you right now that we’ve reached an agreement with the state, they’re going to allow all students to participate, but unfortunately I don’t have that kind of information and the state is not ready to make that final decision yet,” said Noe.

School board attorney John Henning told the school board that he had been working to develop contacts that might be helpful in shaping the outcome that Macon County Schools wants to see.

“There is a perception that every time a school must change how its conferences are lined up, it’s only trying to get into one where it can whip everybody in the conference. Because there’s a lot of gaming the system that has always happened,” said Henning. “I think one of the challenges is making sure that the concern here cuts through that noise and understand, we’re willing to compete, we want to compete.”

In May, the NCHSAA board will hold a meeting and Noe said he hopes and expects to have some sort of update following that meeting.

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