PECHS District Move A Plus

Published 4:04 pm Thursday, December 8, 2011

PRINCE EDWARD – As reported in The Herald's Friday edition, plans are in the works for Prince Edward County High School to move from the “AA” Southside to the Group “A” James River District. While it's not quite a done deal, what would be a new district home is in an initial proposed alignment before the Virginia High School League.

A final decision is not expected until next spring, but the change has a potential savings in both human and monetary costs.

“…Obviously, it would change our direct competition to our neighboring communities, which is going to help foster healthy local rivalries,” Division Superintendent Dr. David Smith cited. “It'll have a positive impact for our students traveling to away games in drastically shortening travel time, and that's especially critical on school nights.”

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Currently, Prince Edward, in the Southside District, competes with teams as far away as Southampton County, which for students can mean an hour and a half trip. For nighttime competition, that can mean getting home sometime close to midnight in the middle of a school week, making it challenging for them to get enough rest and their schoolwork done for the next day.

“This would really help our students in that regard,” Dr. Smith said. “And, of course, the reverse of that is true for those who travel to us as well. It'll help all students involved.”

On those late night returns, students-who don't drive themselves-rely on family members or a family-arranged carpool to get home from school. (There is no activity bus to take them home that late.)

“Something else that this move would help in terms of family support is that with having away games that are closer to Prince Edward, it would make it possible for more of our athlete's family members to see them in away competitions where they may not always be able to now with the long distances that we travel,” Dr. Smith said.

If it happens, he adds, he sees “nothing but positive results” that would come from it.

Prince Edward's High School is one of the largest schools in the region, but its numbers are below the amount permitted for Group single “A” schools. Prince Edward has 691 students; Randolph Henry would be second largest at 646 followed by Nottoway at 637. Cumberland has the smallest enrollment in the James River District with 433.

Prince Edward would not, however, register as the largest Group single “A” school in the state, but would be the sixth largest. Two high schools topped 700, with a cutoff at 709.

Every two years, Prince Edward Athletic Director Rodney Kane explained, a redistricting reclassification survey is conducted and schools are asked when there is a realignment if they wish to stay in their current district.

He put “no.”

The longest distance they would have in two years in the new James River would be Bluestone, about an hour and 15-20 minutes away. The closest in the Southside, he cites, is Park View, which is an hour and a half.

Prince Edward, in making their request, ranked several factors including travel, geography, natural rivalries, and declining enrollment (which has been trending down).

The numbers have steadily trended down for the high school.

Consider that the high school enrollment numbers (according to the November 2010 school board packet) in October of the previous year was 751.

Potential benefits, in addition to more fans being able to travel to away games with closer venues and an increased gate at Prince Edward with travel less of an issue for other schools, is the savings in fuel costs.

Shorter distances will translate into savings for the school.

Kane assessed that overall the competition will be stronger in the James River District. He noted you would have to beat out more teams to win the district championship. “But I think that…for a single 'A,' they're a very strong district,” he said.

Prince Edward has 28 different athletic activities they participate in, which includes JV and varsity football and volleyball, but also spans to include such things as swimming and tennis. (Not all schools in either the Southside or James River field teams in all sports activities. Only one other school, for example, currently has a girls soccer team.)

What could the savings help?

School officials have equipment reconditioned and Kane notes that he's just found out that he has to purchase 50 new football helmets next year at $175 each.

“It's not just the numbers. It's more to me where you fit,” Kane also said. “And I feel like…the James River is where we fit the best geographically and everything.”