Realigned: UIL rule allows Lehman to move down to 5A

By virtue of an existing UIL rule, Lehman High will be allowed to move down to the 5A ranks.

On Tuesday, Eric Wright, Hays CISD Superintendent, said the UIL “graciously” gave the district permission to resubmit its enrollment figure for Lehman High, which was roughly 50 students fewer than the reported snapshot of 2,225 students in November. As a result, Lehman High will join Johnson High in 5A in all sports and 5A, Division I in football.

The change was based on an existing UIL rule allowing districts to use projected enrollments for schools impacted by the opening of a new high school campus. Hays CISD opened Johnson High, its third comprehensive high school campus, in August, which was preceded by the redrawing of attendance figures to make way for the new school. Johnson High will compete at the varsity level in fall 2020.

Wright said there was confusion on the district’s end on what enrollment figure it could use for the upcoming 2020-22 realignment process. Initially, the district submitted Lehman High’s snapshot enrollment in November. Earlier this month, the UIL unveiled its conference cutoff numbers which classified Lehman as a 6A program; the cutoff for 6A schools are those with 2,220 or more students.Those cutoff figures will be used by the UIL in February to realign and reclassify schools across the state.

After consulting with UIL officials, which included getting answers to questions on the process of which enrollment to submit, Hays CISD was given permission to use projections from mid-2nd quarter 2019, which had Lehman’s student population at 2,173 students.

Wright said projections for Hays High, which was classified as a 6A program, were not used as those figures did not fall below the 5A threshold and were not substantially different from its current snapshot enrollment. However, mid-2nd quarter projections show Hays High’s and Lehman High’s student population hovering around the 2,000 to 2,100 student mark over the next five to six years.

The move comes as Lehman High athletics was bracing for a third straight realignment phase within the 6A ranks. Had Lehman High stayed in 6A, the school would have been the fourth smallest 6A school in the state.

During its time in the 6A ranks, Lehman High UIL team sports generated only two playoff squads, boys soccer and softball, both of those competing in spring 2019.

Moving down to 5A, however, will allow Lehman to compete against programs of similar size.

“Had they gone to 6A, and their numbers were truly 2,100, they were going to play schools that had almost double their enrollment,” Wright said. “Just for the competitive advantage, it just makes it a lot more fair.”

Bruce Salmon, Lehman High athletic coordinator, said moving down to 5A helps the Lobo athletic program with their overall numbers. Salmon said 70 to 80 percent of participants in Lehman High athletics in all sports are underclassmen, which is a common figure for schools in 5A programs.

But at the same time, Salmon maintained moving down to 5A isn’t necessarily a panacea for the program. Locally, schools such as Cedar Park, Manor, Dripping Springs and several Pflugerville and Leander schools play at the 5A level and are competitive in nearly every sport.

“We have to be careful that we automatically think it’s going to get better. It’s about execution and playing and doing everything we’re supposed to,” Salmon said. “Naturally, you’re going to play teams that are similar to you, but they’re still high quality.”

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