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Hoover among several schools looking at class change

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.

Scott is in the process of becoming a full-time member of the Cardinal Conference. The Skyhawks will compete for league titles for all sports except football in 2010-11, and join in football in 2011.

More of a shock to the high school sports senses could be seeing schools such as Fairmont Senior, North Marion, East Fairmont, Lewis County and Nicholas County in Class AA, as could happen. Bridgeport would also drop back to Class AA after an eight-year stay in Class AAA.

SSAC Executive Director Gary Ray said he expects significant shifts in the next realignment.

"There's a great potential not only for significant movement in (enrollment) numbers, but where schools land as far as their classifications," Ray said Wednesday. "A lot of the lower-end triple-A schools could find themselves in double-A, and vice-versa.

"It's going to be hard to tell exactly where everyone will be until we sit down and do it."

Moorefield and Man would move to Class AA under the current projected enrollments, with Greenbrier West, Tyler Consolidated, Magnolia and Webster County dropping to Class A.

One factor in the possible earthquake to come is the size of the graduating class of 2013. The sophomores of 2010-11 totaled 23,515 students last year and were easily the largest class in the state. It is more than 2,000 students larger than the second-largest class of last year, the kindergarteners.

The Class of 2013 did not figure into the last reclassification, which took place in 2007 and was implemented in 2008.

Stoffel said that one possible solution to Hoover's potential conference issue might be found by looking into the past.

"The number one issue is accessibility to games. We'll have your Winfields, Nitros and some of your smaller triple-As around," Stoffel said. "I know it was discussed a few years ago that some schools like Lincoln County and Logan might want to put together a different conference, and that might be the way to go."

Ray said that the schools currently scheduled to open in 2012 will provide the SSAC with their expected enrollments in 2011 for the purpose of reclassification. Mingo Central is under construction, but ground has not been broken on Spring Mills.

Contact sportswriter Derek Taylor at or 304-348-5170.


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