University Interscholastic League realignment happens every two years and is a fact of life for every public high school in the state of Texas.
Most in Ellis County have stable to steadily-rising enrollment numbers in the middle of their classification every year and know generally where they’ll fall — and also who their possible future district mates will be, depending on which direction the UIL decides to ship them.
No county school is expecting a change in overall classification, which keeps the status quo for other sports outside of football for the next two school terms.
But a couple, namely Midlothian and Red Oak, exist right on the cusp of expected dividing lines between football divisions — and can only hope that a bigger-than-normal cutoff rise will keep them in a smaller division. Nobody will know until the UIL releases the class and division enrollment ranges early next month.
Every two years in October, the UIL establishes a Snapshot Day to capture the grade 9-12 enrollment of every public high school in the Lone Star State, with a few alternate counting methods allowed in certain situations. The date this year was Friday, Oct. 25.
The UIL will use these enrollment numbers to set cutoff numbers for each class, which in football will include division cutoffs below Class 6A. These enrollment ranges will be announced in early December, followed by the release of new districts in early February.
For Waxahachie, the new numbers are a curse and a blessing all rolled into one. The Indians were one of the smallest Class 6A schools in the 2018 realignment, but the Snapshot Day figures show classes that will number 2,495 students — numbers that will keep them in 6A, but with a talent pool larger by 260 students that could help them be more competitive in football and other sports.
WHS has its biggest enrollments in grades 6 through 11, with more than 700 students in all but one grade. This bulge represents the proverbial “hog passing through a snake” that will eventually matriculate to high school and be counted for at least the next three realignment cycles.
And it doesn’t take into account future growth, with tens of thousands of planned new rooftops in the WISD attendance zone. So the Indians are likely to remain a fixture in Texas’ highest classification for the time being.
Most schools know they’ll fall within a classification range year after year. But in fast-growing Ellis County, the numbers game can sometimes cause a little bit of apprehension.
Class 5A Red Oak, for example, came in just 4 students under the bar to stay in Division II for football back in 2018. This time, Red Oak turned in an enrollment number of 1,950 students, an increase of 115 that seems likely to propel the Hawks into Division I when the realignment is announced this upcoming February.
Midlothian High, likewise, is staring at a bump in divisions. MHS turned in 1,984.5 students, well above the 2018 floor of 1,840. The Panthers aren’t alone, however, as district mates Burleson and Cleburne are looking at making a similar move.
Midlothian ISD is the only public school district in Ellis County with two high schools, MHS and Heritage High. Heritage turned in 1,040 for the upcoming realignment, which will keep the Jaguars a solid member of Class 4A Division I.
Currently, MISD has one feeder middle school for each high school, which makes counting classes simple. But that will change when Dieterich Middle School opens in 2020. Dieterich will send students to both high schools, which will complicate the count for rising ninth-graders starting in 2022.
Ennis will remain a proud member of 5A Division II with a reported enrollment of 1,723, well below the top of the division.
Life Waxahachie will remain in 4A Division I after turning in 944, an increase of a dozen over the 2018 enrollment report.
Number-watching exists in all classifications, from the big dogs in 6A all the way down to the six-man ranks in 1A. Especially in football, with an additional dividing line between Divisions I and II within each classification.
But most schools, like Maypearl and Italy, did not have any dramatic enrollment swings that will affect their classification. Snapshot Day numbers weren't available for either school, but Maypearl is expected to remain in 3A Division I, and Italy in 2A Division I.
Ferris’ number of 765.5 is well below the 2018 dividing line of 789 at the top of 4A Division II. Ferris saw modest growth over the last two years but will remain in Division II.
Like Ferris, neighboring Palmer High School, right off Interstate 45, is beginning to see growth trickle south down that corridor into its community. Palmer, a current 3A Division II member, turned in a number of 326.
That number is just eight below the 2018 cutoff for a move to Division I, but the Bulldogs should be safe for 2020 because the cutoffs rarely, if ever, drop in the fast-growing Lone Star State.
Avalon, at 97 students, was just eight students away from having to either switch to 11-man football or declare as a six-man independent, or “outlaw,” school in 2018.
Snapshot Day numbers were not available for the school, but Avalon was up to 99 in the latest Texas Education Agency report and the UIL allows six-man schools to use counting options to stay under the cutoff, so the Eagles still have a little bit of wiggle room.
The TEA provides enrollment numbers for each school district and campus, but those numbers often can be misleading because they are taken in the spring and can change over the summer.
Milford, the smallest public high school in the county, turned in 73 and will remain in Class 1A Division I.
Enrollment numbers submitted to the University Interscholastic League on Oct. 25 for the 2020-2022 reclassification and realignment for Ellis County public high schools, along with 2018-2019 enrollment numbers, according to the UIL, schools, and other sources:
School 18-19 20-21 Change
Waxahachie 2,235 2,495 +260
Midlothian 1,783.5 1,984.5 +201
Red Oak 1,835 1,950 +115
Ennis 1,665 1,723 +58
Mid. Heritage 914 1,040 +126
Life Waxahachie 932 944 +12
Ferris 759 765.5 +6.5
Maypearl 374 390* n/a
Palmer 314 326 +12
Italy 171 170* n/a
Avalon 97 99* n/a
Milford 74 73 -1
* enrollment not available; projections based on April 2019 Texas Education Agency enrollment reports for grades to be counted in upcoming realignment
6A 2,190 or more
1A 104.9 or less
5A DI 1,840-2,189
5A DII 1,150-1,839
4A DI 790-1,149
4A DII 505-789
3A DI 335-504
3A DII 225-334
2A DI 161.5-224
2A DII 105-161.4
1A DI 55.5-104.9
1A DII 55.4 or less