Polk County's 2019 boys soccer team finished as Western Highlands Conference champions

The realignment process for North Carolina high schools will work unlike any in the past – which is perhaps no surprise given the upheaval of the past eight months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The North Carolina High School Athletic Association announced on Tuesday its guidelines for the upcoming realignment process, which takes all state high schools and places them in one of four athletic classifications as well as a conference.

The biggest change announced is how the realignment will be conducted. In years past, schools were ranked solely based on Average Daily Membership (ADM), with the schools then divided into classifications based on that enrollment figure. The current realignment, adopted in 2017, placed the largest 20 percent of schools in 4A, with the next 30 percent in 3A, the next 30 percent in 2A and the smallest 20 percent in 1A.

The NCHSAA has decided to return to splitting schools into four even classifications, using a 25-25-25-25 percent model. Enrollment, though, will only be part of the equation for this realignment:

  • The ADM numbers for the first month of the 2019-2020 school year will be used, rather than the current school year, and will comprise 50 percent of a new Realignment Score
  • A three-year average of each school’s finish in the annual Wells Fargo State Cup competition will be used and will count for 25 percent of the Realignment Score. The Wells Fargo State Cup awards points for schools that have the best overall athletic performance, with postseason play the primary factor.
  • Also counting 25 percent will be a score based on each school’s Identified Student Percentage (ISP). This number is representative of the number of students in each school who are on some form of government assistance, per USDA guidelines. There are a handful of steps involved in calculating the ISP score.

Once each of the three numbers is calculated, then those will be added together to produce the Realignment Score.

The NCHSAA has already divided all of the schools in the state into east and west, based on the home county of the school. The NCHSAA will take each half of the state and use the Realignment Score to put the top 25 percent in 4A, the next 25 percent in 3A and so on.

The NCHSAA will then assign teams to conferences, and that plan will be submitted to the NCHSAA Realignment Committee before it is released to all schools on Dec. 10.

Schools will have until January to submit concerns or proposed changes to the plan. A second draft will be distributed on Jan. 14, and a third draft will be issued on Feb. 4. Final appeals will be heard in mid-February and then the final plan will be submitted to the NCSHAA Board of Directors for approval at its March meeting.

The new alignment will go into effect in August for 2021-2025.