Dalton High School's athletics programs will compete in Class 5A during the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years, bumping down from Class 6A.
Dalton High is on the move to Class 5A, while newly-opened The Dalton Academy will compete in Class 2A in next two-year reclassification cycle, which was announced Tuesday by the Georgia High School Association. The other high school programs in Whitfield County and the two Murray County high schools will remain in their respective classifications for two more seasons.
The GHSA announced the new classification placements for Class A Private through Class 7A Tuesday after meetings in previous weeks finalized classification parameters. Classification is determined by enrollment numbers for each school, with students that live outside the school's attendance zone counting three times. Appeals will be heard Nov. 10 before the classifications are finalized.
Dalton moved up to Class 6A for the 2016-17 school year after competing in Class 5A the previous two seasons. The GHSA added a Class 7A in 2016-17 after having added a Class 6A for the first time in 2012.
Dalton High School's athletics programs competed in Class 3A as recently as 2011, but the Catamounts moved up to 4A, 5A and then 6A as the class system expanded in the last few years.
Now, the Catamount programs move down to Class 5A. Dalton High School's 2021 enrollment of 1,761 students — including 65 out-of-zone students — makes it the ninth-largest school in Class 5A for the new two-year cycle.
The Dalton High School football team started out strong in Class 6A, reaching the state semifinals in 2016, but have missed the playoffs in three of the five seasons since, including the last two. Class 6A also has put Dalton in a classification without many schools in close proximity to compete with in region play. For Region 5-6A competition in the current two-year cycle, the closest school to Dalton has been Rome, about an hour away.
In the next cycle, Dalton will presumably compete in a region with Calhoun, which is set to stay in Class 5A.
Coahulla Creek, Murray County and North Murray will all remain in Class 3A, while Northwest Whitfield and Southeast Whitfield will stay put in Class 4A. Northwest has the eighth-highest reclassification count in the new Class 4A and was just 38 points from moving to Class 5A.
Christian Heritage will remain in Class A Private.
Private schools not in Class A faced some of the biggest classification jumps statewide with the new multiplier for out-of-zone students. Private school Marist jumps from Class 4A to Class 6A with an enrollment of 800 but 581 students from outside the attendance zone. St. Pius will compete in Class 7A despite having an enrollment of 1,096, while two schools in the classification have more than 3,800 students.