PRC High’s new classification poses problems

Published 7:00 am Saturday, November 12, 2022

By Jillian Haskin

As of last week, Pearl River Central High School’s classification of 5A has been revised, now the district will be ranked as 6A(3) due to its increase in students. While some are OK with the change, there is a lot of skepticism concerning this change in classification.

Every two years, schools are classified into different sports categories based on their enrollment and geographical proximity. Each sports classification is denoted by an 1A, 2A, 3A, or 4A denoting the larger enrollments alongside a number, 1-7, placed in front of the A such as 1A, which would typically have a enrollment of 156 or less, whereas 7A would have 1,553 or less. Currently, Picayune, West Harrison, and Long Beach are in PRC’s district and they are all located at reasonable traveling distances.

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With  Forest Hill, Hattiesburg High, Terry High, West Jones, and Jim Hill High School as new district opponents, Pearl River Central’s so-called “neighboring high schools” are far from a “neighbor-like” distance. Ranging from the shortest time of an hour and several minutes to the longest of almost two hours and thirty minutes, not adding in the additional time of the 45 mph rule of bus travel per state law, athletes and coaches are in for not-so-favorable bus rides to visit their competitors. What doesn’t make sense is the 7 mile distance from Picayune Memorial High School who isn’t in the same district with PRC, while a school 2 hours away is.

Yet, the horrific driving distances aren’t the biggest problems.

The shortage of bus drivers in many districts is a prevalent problem that has yet to be addressed. While some coaches have their Commercial Driver’s License, which permits them to drive a bus, not all are licensed, posing a problem. The odds of grabbing a last-minute driver for a two-hour bus ride is not favorable. For coaches who are licensed, there is still not an ounce of relief, with most games not starting well into the evening, meaning their arrival back at school could be near or even after midnight. Lack of sleep for students attending these events is going to be at an all-time high for the upcoming seasons. While sleep interference is sure to cause problems for students, missing key hours of the school day is sure to generate mishaps for catching up on assignments and consistent participation in class.

PRC Head Baseball Coach Neil Walther, who has been at PRC for 16 years, said, “My initial, it’s going to be the same next year as it is this year. I think it’s awful. It’s awful because for me it’s not just the travel time but in our sport, we’ll be playing some non-competitive games, so those weeks that we play it’s going to be hard to focus.”

For Walther, who has his CDL, to say that the season ahead will be long is quite an understatement.

Other coaches declined to comment.

With the new district designation, PRC has begun to appeal the district classifications.