Written by Matt Wixon
Highland Park will be in Class 6A under new UIL enrollment classification
The University Interscholastic League released its classification cutoff numbers Monday, providing a sneak preview of the realignment show in February. It didn’t take long to find the blockbuster scene coming soon to a sporting event near you:
Highland Park in Class 6A.
For the first time since 1988, when Highland Park dropped from 5A to 4A, the Scots are moving up. With an enrollment of 2,106, Highland Park will be one of the smallest schools in the UIL’s new largest classification.
The UIL’s new 6A for 2014-16 is for schools with enrollments of 2,100 and above, along with smaller schools that choose to be in the largest class. Highland Park’s enrollment was 2,028 for the 2012-14 alignment, when the 4A/5A cutoff was 2,090.
“We’ve been growing as a district with the elementary kiddos, and we knew it would be close,” Highland Park ISD athletic director Johnny Ringo said. “It’s not a shock.”
But it will certainly be a challenge. In the UIL’s reconfigured classes, the former 4A is now 5A and the old 5A is 6A, so Highland Park is not stepping up two classifications. But the Scots will be in a class that includes Allen (5,987 enrollment for grades 9-12), Plano West (5,531), Plano (5,394), Plano East (5,300) and 15 other Dallas-area schools with enrollments of more than 3,000.
McKinney knows Allen and the Plano schools well, and not just because they are neighbors. McKinney, which has one of the state’s smallest 5A enrollments, is in District 10-5A with the four largest schools in the state. McKinney’s enrollment dropped slightly from its 2012-2014 number — from 2,121 to 2,076 — but the result is dramatic.
Instead of playing against schools more than twice its size, McKinney will be one of the largest schools in the new 5A (enrollment range of 1,060 to 2,099).
“Geographically, we’re butted up against the four largest schools in Texas,” McKinney ISD athletic director Shawn Pratt said. “That district, in every sport, is just a killer. We’re excited for the kids and coaches [to move]. It’s a more even playing field.”
School enrollments for the 2014-16 alignment were reported to the UIL on Oct. 25, this year’s “Snapshot Day.” In the past, how the numbers fell into the classifications wasn’t known until realignment was unveiled in February. The UIL broke from that tradition this year, giving schools near the cutoffs a reason to smile or scowl.
Scowling in 6A: Abilene (2,107) and Highland Park (2,106). Teams smiling in 5A include Denton (2,087) as well as Grapevine (2,085), which had been in the largest classification since 2002.
Rockwall-Heath (2,087) was in 4A for six years before bumping to 5A for the current two-year alignment. It’s once again a big fish in a smaller pond.
“Within six weeks after we had submitted enrollment numbers in October of 2011 we had dropped down to 2,080 students, but we were stuck in 5A,” said Mickey Moss, Rockwall-Heath’s football coach and athletic director. “Our school could use at least two more years in the new 5A, which would benefit all sports on our campus.”
A slight difference is enrollment can create a huge difference in competition, success and experience for the athletes. The cutoff lines must be drawn somewhere, however.
For schools that land on the wrong side of the line, the only way to proceed is with a brave face. That’s what Highland Park ISD superintendent Dawson Orr did Monday.
“The Scots are always competitive,” he said in a news release. “We look forward to the challenge.”
Follow Matt Wixon on Twitter @mattwixon.
UIL Class Enrollment Cutoffs
Enrollment ranges for the UIL’s last two realignments:
6A: 2,100 and above
1A: Less than 105
(Schools in 1A play six-man football)
5A: 2090 and above
1A-II: Less than 100
(Schools in 1A-II play six-man football)