According to Carroll County sources, a 23-member panel of the Virginia High School League’s Executive Committee accepted Carroll County’s appeal Sept. 19 to prohibit Franklin County from joining the River Ridge District.
After two earlier appeals were denied by the VHSL, Carroll County’s last option was a written challenge to the 23-member panel to keep Franklin County, the largest school west of Richmond, out of the River Ridge District.
During its Sept. 13 meeting, the Carroll County School Board approved sending out voicemails to county citizens. The voicemails encouraged citizens to contact members of the VHSL’s Executive Committee to plead their concerns of the impact of Franklin County in the River Ridge, including a nearly three-hour trip for Carroll County’s athletic teams. Carroll County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Strader Blankenship said he felt like an overwhelming response of Carroll County citizens helped with the appeal being accepted.
“In talking to a couple of members of the Executive Committee, that most certainly was a factor. But the travel was our biggest issue,” Blankenship said. “We like the River Ridge District. We have more travel than some of the other schools in and near Roanoke, but we compete with them in other sports. It should be a competitive league for us. But our biggest concern was the travel to Franklin and that seems to be resolved.”
As a result of the appeals being accepted, the River Ridge District will now include Carroll County, Pulaski County, Patrick Henry-Roanoke, Salem, Hidden Valley, Cave Spring, Blacksburg and Christiansburg. A new six-classification system was also approved by the VHSL on Sept. 19.
Carroll County Athletic Director Darrin Matthews said it had certainly been a battle appealing Franklin County’s inclusion to the River Ridge. Pulaski County filed a similar appeal after the current River Ridge schools voted 6-0 to keep Franklin out. Even so, the VHSL denied those appeals Sept. 11 before the Executive Committee overturned the vote Wednesday.
“This helps alleviate some of our concerns. It certainly was a battle, but we are pleased,” Matthews said. “I feel pretty good this afternoon and feel like the Executive Committee was able to correct something the Redistricting and Reclassification Committee had not gotten right, so I feel pretty good about it. According to what we were told this is the final appeal, and now we move on to start getting ready for schedules for next year.”
Matthews said he attended a state meeting of athletic directors Monday in Charlottesville. While there, he spoke to one member of the VHSL staff who told Matthews that several letters and many calls were made on Carroll County’s behalf to the VHSL’s Executive Committee.
“They said they had received calls and letters from various parents and concerned citizens, so I am sure that made an impact,” Matthews said.