COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — As changes loom on the horizon for high school athletics in South Carolina, a group of parents, coaches and student-athletes all weighed in this week.

One of the most prominent concerns under consideration by lawmakers is fairness, particularly in the context of lower classifications involving private and charter schools. The State High School League and its members have been grappling with the issue, but they say a budget proviso prevents them from taking any action at least this year.

Lawmakers are exploring several bills aimed at addressing these concerns. One proposal suggests moving charter and private schools up in classifications. Proponents argue that because these schools can enroll students from anywhere in the state, they may have an advantage on the field.

Jim Hyatt, the Athletic Director at Chesnee High School, emphasized the challenges public schools face, stating, “We can’t go somewhere else and pull a kid in. When you have a generational team, that might be the only chance that we have as a high school to ever win a state championship.”

Lawmakers are divided on how to tackle the issue. Some advocate for a complete overhaul of the existing system, while others favor classification changes based on a school’s on-field success. Brian Newsome, Principal of Gray Collegiate Academy, defended his school’s adherence to their charter and expressed concerns about misinformation causing division within the high school athletic community.

Parents also weighed in, with Andrea Gregory sharing the emotional toll on students, saying, “We are prohibiting our children from competing at a competitive level because adults can’t get along.”

Some schools argue that the responsibility for resolving these issues should remain with the High School League and its member schools. Chad Cary, Athletic Director at Newberry High School, urged lawmakers not to hand over control to the Department of Education, citing the league’s long history of running high school athletics.

The ad-hoc committee plans to reconvene next month to continue deliberations on these bills. Lawmakers hope to present recommendations to the General Assembly by January.