Five Richmond-area high schools will switch classifications in 2021, the Virginia High School League announced Thursday. Four schools will move down to Class 4, and one will move up to Class 6, diminishing the area’s presence in Class 5.
Atlee, Henrico, Varina and Matoaca will drop down from Class 5, Region B to Class 4, Region B. Manchester will move up from Class 5, Region B to Class 6, Region B.
Every school in the VHSL is assigned a classification based on the school’s enrollment, with Class 6 as the largest and Class 1 as the smallest. Beginning in the fall of 2021, the Richmond area will have four schools in Class 6, 12 in Class 5, 12 in Class 4, seven in Class 3, four in Class 2 and one in Class 1.
Manchester has ricocheted between Classes 5 and 6 since this form of alignment was instituted in 2013. The Lancers started in Class 5, ascended to Class 6, where their football team won the state championship with a 15-0 record in 2018, then moved back down to Class 5 in 2019. This will be Manchester’s third classification switch in eight years.
The four Richmond-area schools that are members of Class 6, including Cosby, James River and Thomas Dale, will play in Region A alongside Hampton Roads schools Oscar Smith and Ocean Lakes, and one southwestern-Virginia school, Franklin County.
This year, there are 17 local schools in Class 5. Next year, there will be only 12, and the name of the region in which they will play will be Region C. In Class 5, Region A will include schools from south Hampton Roads, Region B will include schools mostly from the peninsula, and Region D will include northern Virginia schools.
Highland Springs, Hermitage and L.C. Bird remain members of Class 5.
Because four Richmond-area schools have moved to Class 4, Region B, and because Western Albemarle has also joined them, that region will now be the largest in the state, featuring 21 teams, including Dinwiddie, Hanover and Monacan.
Varina’s football team reached the state semifinals in Class 5 last year despite having the smallest enrollment in its classification. Varina has shrunk considerably in the past decade. The eastern Henrico school was a member of Class 6 in 2013.
With Atlee’s move to Class 4, that means all four Hanover County schools will be members of the same region. Lake Taylor, which had been a perennial power in Class 4 football, has moved down to Class 3, the same designation as Hopewell and Goochland.
Goochland is experiencing a switch, too. It will move from the James River District to the Jefferson District, meaning it will play different regular-season opponents, but its playoff opponents won’t change. Its new district opponents will include Louisa, Orange, Albemarle and Western Albemarle. Goochland is currently the largest school in the James River District, and it will be one of the smaller schools in the Jefferson.
These changes will remain through the 2022-23 school year.