CHARLESTON, W.Va. - There's a reason why they put whistles on trains. They allow anyone in the path of an oncoming locomotive to get out of the way in plenty of time.
Herbert Hoover High School Athletic Director Steve Stoffel Sr. can hear the engine, even if it's more than a year away.
"I know our enrollment's increasing. We've got some stability and some kids coming back," Stoffel said earlier this week. "It looks good so far."
The West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission will reconfigure its competitive classifications in the fall of 2011. When it does, the SSAC will count the enrollment of students in grades 9, 10 and 11 and then, for most sports, divide the total number of schools into three comparatively equal classes.
Supposing the SSAC follows its established suit of 40 Class AAA schools, 40 Class AA schools and leaving the remainder for Class A, Hoover would fall well within the Class AAA ranks if the counting were done today.
Those students - soon to be starting the 8th, 9th and 10th grades - total 694.
According to enrollment figures supplied by the West Virginia Department of Education, that would make Hoover the 31st-largest high school in the state in 2011, should the numbers hold.
Hoover is currently a member of the Class AA-exclusive Cardinal Conference. It joined the league when the school fell from Class AAA in 2002. The school formerly was part of the Mountain State Athletic Conference.
"Mr. (Michael) Kelly and I haven't really discussed it," Stoffel said, referring to Hoover's principal. "The bad thing about it is if you're not in a (sports) conference you're not getting games.
'The thing about the MSAC is I don't know whether that would be that good either. There's a lot of big schools in the MSAC, and I don't know yet where we'd fit."
Hoover would not be alone in a class switch if realignment happened today. Under the same 40/40/remainder design, Point Pleasant, Scott and Berkeley Springs would join Class AAA along with two schools - Spring Mills and Mingo Central - set to open in 2012.
There would be 39 football-playing schools in Class A, and 46 total schools in the smallest class.
Point Pleasant and Scott were formerly Class AAA schools before falling to Class AA in the last 15 years. Berkeley Springs is beginning to feel the same growth that schools in neighboring Berkeley County have experienced.