Vandegrift, Vista Ridge and Leander high schools will each move up to class 6A for the upcoming 2016-17 school year based on the recently-released and highly-anticipated reclassification and realignment numbers by the University Interscholastic League.
The UIL realigns every two years based on school enrollment numbers. Only the largest high schools in the state, with an enrollment of 2,150 and above, are ranked 6A. VHS’s enrollment is 2,255. A school’s class determines which teams it will compete against in both athletic and fine arts competitions.
Moving to a new 6A class will present several challenges for the schools. Each school will now face district competition against larger schools. Once a school enters 6A, there is no cap on how large schools can be, enrollment can be anything from 2,150 and up.
“Any time you play against schools with much larger enrollments, it can be more difficult just because of the volume of students from which their teams are generated,” said Leander ISD Athletic Director Lee Bridges. “6A schools will sometimes offer more sub-varsity teams to compete against—Rouse HS went through this problem the last couple of years. There will be C teams, a 3rd squad, in some sports, which will require additional coaches, transportation, etc. This is a good problem and necessary because it means more students are getting to compete. LISD is already moving forward and has a plan in place to adapt to these new challenges for these campuses.”
In the fine arts department, the reclassification to 6A will only affect programs that compete in UIL activities; specifically, band, choir and theatre, according to LISD Fine Arts Director Peter Warshaw. Students in these programs will also face competition from larger schools.
The high school marching bands from Leander ISD recently dominated the 5A State Marching Band Competition with the first, second, third and fourth places going to Cedar Park High School, Vandegrift High School, Leander High School and Vista Ridge High School, respectively.
“All of our fine arts programs and students strive for the highest possible standard in everything they do, which is one of the reasons the marching bands have been so successful in class 5A,” Warshaw said. “I anticipate that our students and directors will dedicate the same level of energy in their pursuit of excellence, regardless of their assigned classification.”
Warshaw said he has no doubts that the VHS fine arts programs will continue to be successful,
“They will now have an opportunity to show audiences at class 6A UIL events just how spectacularly our students prepare and perform,” Warshaw said.
Cedar Park High School and Rouse High School will remain 5A schools. The UIL classifies 5A schools as having an enrollment between 1,100 and 2,149. CPHS’s enrollment is 1,949 and RHS’s enrollment is 2,006.
Tom Glenn High School, which will open in fall 2016, will be a 4A school and expected to have 815 students in its second year.
Some may question why the shifts in LISD are happening how they are and, for example, why Cedar Park stays 5A while Vandegrift moves to 6A.
Veronica Sopher, LISD spokesperson, said that UIL reclassifications and LISD re-zoning are two different things. The district does not focus on UIL classifications when it looks at the sizes of its high schools and how many students each high school is zoned for. In other words, it does not create its zones based on keeping a high school in a certain UIL classification, she said.
“The most recent secondary rezoning (several months ago) focused on efficiently utilizing building capacity and meeting the academic needs of the students. It also ensured we are good stewards of the district’s finances by delaying the construction of high school No. 7… so the district could pay debt down farther,” Sopher said.
The reclassified high schools do not yet know which teams they will face in competition. The UIL will assign competition districts in February; at that time, scheduling can begin for all games and contests for the next two years.
“We are not sure what our UIL Districts will be, but we look forward to those challenges and our goals for success will continue to be in place,” Bridges said. “These LISD schools have been competing in one of the toughest 5A districts in the state, if not the toughest, so we know our schools and coaches understand what very good competition looks like and how to prepare for it each week.”