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School board joins community in effort to keep North a 2A school

By Steve Huffman
Salisbury Post
SPENCER ó Members of the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education weighed in Monday on the matter of North Rowan being forced to drop to a 1A athletic conference.
Board members passed unanimously a resolution supporting North’s efforts to play “up” to a larger athletic conference that includes more natural rivalries and shorter trips for athletic teams and their supporters.
As it now stands, beginning in the fall of 2009, North will drop from 2A to 1A status and play in an athletic conference comprised primarily of schools from Chatham, Montgomery and Moore counties.
One of the schools, Chatham Central, is more than 83 miles from North Rowan. The closest conference foe will be Gray Stone Day School in Misenheimer, still a 21-mile jaunt.
Gate receipts are likely to suffer greatly, North Rowan educators note, because of a decline in interest with the lack of natural rivalries.
Athletic classifications and conferences are decided by representatives of the N.C. High School Athletic Association in Chapel Hill. That’s the organization to which appeals are made.
North Rowan’s situation has already been pleaded once to the NCHSAA. A first appeal was denied in early February.
A second appeal before a NCHSAA realignment committee will be held Thursday. That 22-member committee is made up of 11 school system superintendents from across the state as well as representatives of the N.C. Coaches Association and the N.C. Board of Education.
Included in the resolution passed Monday, members of the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education noted that student-athletes at North will suffer because of the long rides they’ll be required to take for athletic competitions.
The resolution notes that the move to the distant conference “will create an academic hardship for student-athletes resulting from having to leave school prior to the end of the academic day and not returning until very late that same night.”
The resolution also states that fellow members of North’s current conference ó the Central Carolina 2A ó “would welcome the opportunity to compete in interscholastic sports with North Rowan.”
The resolution passed by the school board isn’t the only local effort being made to get the NCHSAA to overturn its decision concerning North Rowan.
Parents and other community leaders are also spearheading an effort (see related story) and Dr. Walter Hart, an assistant superintendent with the Rowan-Salisbury School System, has spoken with leaders of the NCHSAA and members of its board of directors concerning North Rowan’s situation.
“We’re saying, just keep us at 1A, but let us play at a 2A level,” Hart said.
He said he’s been impressed at how the North Rowan community has rallied to the school’s cause.
“The (school) board and community have been very supportive of North’s efforts,” Hart said.
Whether the resolution from the school board and the efforts of everyone else involved holds any weight in the eyes of members of the NCHSAA’s realignment committee remains to be seen.
Rick Strunk, associate executive director of the NCHSAA, said North’s appeal is based on “extreme geographical hardship” and said that’s going to be a hard bill to sell to the realignment committee.
He said the fact that North Rowan is located so close to the state’s center will make realignment committee members look at the request doubly hard.
“Others have asked to play up and they’ve all been denied,” Strunk said.
He said that at the moment, there are no schools in the state playing up to larger athletic conferences.
Strunk said schools are divided into 1A, 2A, 3A or 4A classifications based solely on enrollments. He said there’s no “magic number” that separates one classification from the next, noting that the top 25 percent are classified 4A, the next 25 percent are classified 3A and so on.
“You play where you fall,” Strunk said. “If they approved North playing up, it’d be counter to the procedures already in place.”
North Rowan misses qualifying for 2A status by 13 students. The school’s enrollment is 719. North Johnston, the smallest 2A school in the state, has an enrollment of 732.
Strunk said that should North Rowan’s second appeal be denied Thursday, the only recourse the school has is to appeal the decision to the NCHSAA’s board of directors.
But Strunk said such appeals must be based on procedural errors.
“And the realignment committee is very careful not to make procedural errors,” he said.
Contact Steve Huffman at 704-797-4222 or shuffman@salisburypost.com.

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