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New school start time pushes sports practices late into evening

New school start time pushes sports practices late into evening

Controversial change

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With Crescent Valley and Corvallis high schools getting out later this fall, the start time for practices and some games will be pushed back, meaning big adjustments for coaches and players 

CORVALLIS — Scott Sanders had his Crescent Valley High football players out on the field for spring workouts again this year.

The Raiders had to tread lightly.

The Field of Dreams was still in recovery mode from the fall.

The Raiders made the playoffs in football and soccer and spent extra time on the grass field during wet weather.

“Our field gets so muddy when it rains,” Sanders said in June. “It’s pretty well tore up from last season still.”

Nine teams (six soccer and three football) practice on the fields at CV in the fall.

The teams have made use of the open fields next to the Field of Dreams for practice and games to avoid too much wear and tear in the stadium.

Now the Raiders face a dilemma.

Starting this fall, school times have been changed to a later start and finish.

The new schedule was  recommended by a committee, the Guiding Team for Instructional Time, and given the go-ahead by former Corvallis Schools superintendent Dawn Tarzian.

The change was put in effect to enable the teachers to meet with each other and have one-on-one time with students. It will also allow students more sleep time.

Corvallis and Crescent Valley high schools will now get out at 3:50 p.m., Monday through Friday. The school day had been ending at 3:05 p.m. at CV and 3:10 at CHS.

That means major adjustments for high school sports teams.

“It is going to be a little bit of a shock to everyone when all these activities start later,” CHS athletic director Bob Holt said.

Darkness falls

Practices will start later in the day.

That will be particularly restrictive for fall sports teams.

As the days get shorter, time on unlighted fields shrinks.

That’s going to create problems, particularly at CV.

The Raiders do not have a synthetic turf field for practices and games, so they have to watch how much time is spent on the Field of Dreams.

There are no lighted practice fields at CV, so the Raiders have limited time after school to practice.

“It’s going to be huge for our program, especially when the time changes,” Sanders said.

Practices that used to start at 3:30 p.m. will now start as much as an hour later.

That leaves little time before dark.

“You’re closing in on 4:15 to 4:30 (to start practice) and knowing that we can’t go on our game field which has lights,” Sanders said.

Andy Killip, who will be a senior at CV this year, was a member of the Raiders’ soccer team that reached the 5A semifinals and played through mid-November.

Killip said there was a small window of practice time on the Field of Dreams.

With the new schedule, Killip anticipates more trouble as the days shorten.

“Last year we had an hour to practice at the end of playoffs,” Killip said. “This year we’ll have maybe 20 minutes, max.”

That leaves Sanders and CV athletic director Craig Ellingson with few options.

“This is new to all of us,” Ellingson said. “It is what it is, but I do think it gives us some challenges.”

The situation is somewhat better at CHS.

The Spartans do have lights at Spartan Stadium and Taylor Field, so teams can stay later.

Spartan Stadium also has synthetic turf, so the field will not get shredded when the rains come.

That doesn’t mean the Spartans are out of the woods. The soccer teams bus over to the Crystal Lake Sports Complex for practice.

“It will probably be close to 4:30 when we start practice and with no lights out there when we get to the middle of October, we’ll be hard-pressed to hold a practice to 6:30,” Holt said. “That’s our immediate concern.”

Gyms are jammed

Basketball and volleyball teams won’t have to worry about losing daylight, but the schedule change will have an effect during the winter.

Gym space is already limited in the area.

There are six basketball teams and three volleyball teams at each school that need time on the floor.

At CHS, the practice times for the girls and boys basketball teams will now be divided into two two-hour sections, one at 4-6 p.m. and the other at 6-8 p.m. They used to run 3:30-5:30 p.m. and 5:30-7:30 p.m.

Youth teams such as the Future Spartans have been able to use the gym after the high school teams, but that will be more difficult with the new times.

“A lot of community groups come in and use the gym when we’re finished,” CHS boys basketball coach Greg Garrison said. “Now it will be too late for the grade school kids to come in and do anything meaningful.”

Potential conflicts could arise around home games.

Ellingson is also the Raiders girls basketball coach and said his team often has games on Tuesdays or Wednesdays.

That will make it tough for boys coach Mike Stair and his team to get in a full practice.

“If I have a game and Mike Stair (and the boys basketball team) start practice at 4:15, they’ll have to get off the court at 5,” Ellingson said. “Not many coaches are practicing for 45 minutes.”

Travel trouble and a schedule scramble

The new school schedule will affect the athletic schedule.

In the fall, soccer games have been starting at 4:30 p.m.

That’s not feasible now.

“If we start a game at 5, they’re going to have to hustle,” Ellingson said. “There’s no way we can do it by 4:30.  We’ve already moved our nonleague soccer games to 5 for this year.”

Teams from the other schools in the Mid-Willamette Conference will  be asked to make adjustments to travel plans when making a trip to Corvallis.

The schools all get out earlier than CV and CHS, in some cases over an hour. 

West Albany gets out at 2:40 p.m. and South Albany and Lebanon at 2:45.

Silverton’s final bell is at 3:04, Woodburn’s is at 3:10 and Dallas varies between 3:25 and 3:30 p.m.

So the Spartans and Raiders have to decide how far back they can push a start time for a game with some teams spending as much as an hour on the road each way.

“Start times are determined based on the fact that kids are going to be at school the next day,” Holt said. “So we have to face that issue, too.”

The biggest adjustment will be made by athletes at CV and CHS.

They stand to miss more class time for road trips.

That could pile up for athletes in sports with more travel such as basketball, baseball and softball. 

“That’s very concerning,” Ellingson said. “More than half of our student body is involved in athletics.”

Most of those put a high emphasis on academics.

Ellingson said some of the athletes could choose to drop sports.

Athletes who participate in two or three sports might drop down to one because of the stress put on their studies.

They won’t get around to homework until later in the evening and that, combined with more missed class time could be too much.

“If you do a sport in the fall and the winter, you’ve really impacted yourself academically,” he said. “So I think that’s what we’ll eventually see is less involvement.”

Family time will be pushed back, moved around or eliminated.

Sitting down for dinner  as a family will be difficult.

Garrison wondered whether those who made the decision took into consideration how it would impact family schedules.

“I just feel you’ll miss out on some quality time with your family,” he said.

That was a factor in Amy Wright’s decision not to return as the Spartans’ volleyball coach.

Wright’s kids are getting older and are involved in sports. She values dinner time with the family and it was tough enough to make it work with the old schedule.

“In the past you missed dinner on game nights but now unless you eat really late then you’d probably miss dinner every day,” Wright said.

“You just start missing a lot of time.”

The Woodburn experience

Woodburn High went through a similar situation the past two years.

The schedule was changed before the start of the  2009-10 school year and the Bulldogs went from getting out at 3 to 3:20 p.m.

The change seemed subtle enough, but it was felt strongly by the school’s athletic teams.

“We had to start practices later and it really smushed things together,” Woodburn athletic director Greg Baisch said.

Athletes missed more class time when they went on road trips, particularly down the valley to Albany and Corvallis.

Baisch wanted the athletes to be able to get home at a reasonable time.

The days were also long for the teachers, so a compromise was accomplished and starting this fall the school will let out at 3:10.

“It came from both the coaches in our schools and the teachers who wanted a little more of a break,” Baisch said. “That’s a fair compromise.” 

Baisch said the 40 to 45 minutes that the Corvallis schools are adding to the end of the school day will make an immense impact on the sports programs.

“That is a huge change. It was tough for us just to go for 3 o’clock to 3:20,” he said.

“I think everyone is trying to do what’s best for  the kids. But sometimes it becomes the wrong way to do it.”

A plan gone awry?

The change has coaches concerned.

Garrison said he hasn’t gotten a positive reaction from any other coach at CHS.

“Pretty much every coach I’ve talked to on this matter said that they’re frustrated about this,” Garrison said.

The impact will be felt throughout the schools.

Sanders estimated there are about 50 volleyball players, 90 to 100 soccer players and 110 football players participating in fall sports at CV.

“That’s 25 percent of the school for just the fall sports,” Sanders said.

The numbers are similar at CHS.

Garrison questioned why the decision was made without taking such a large section of the school enrollment into consideration.

“My impression was that there wasn’t a lot of foresight of how much impact  the student body was going face,” Garrison said.

As a athlete, Killip was quite happy to hear about the extra sleep time, but he wasn’t impressed with the plan as a whole.

He said the schedule should be kept as it had been.

“From what I’ve heard not many people like it at all,” Killip said. “I heard the  superintendent wanted it and basically overpowered everyone.”

It was not a snap decision.

The GTIT committee met for nearly a year before making a recommendation.

“It was a very extensive  process, especially when we got down to the final three or four schedules,” Corvallis School District curriculum and professional development coordinator Sally McAfee, who served on the committee, said. “Each one discussed in depth.”

Minutes from those meetings show that there was mention of potential problems for the athletic programs but the subject was not one of the parameters set for the committee.

McAfee said the committee did discuss the effect on athletics and addressed some of the issues.

The added time during the day will allow the athletes to get a jump on homework.

“They might be getting home later but there will be more time built into the school day to get homework done,” McAfee said. “So they won’t have as big of a homework burden.”

McAfee said a big concern among the committee members was potential missed class time by the athletes.

“With this schedule it was really important for us  to try to give athletes free time in their schedule and  to give them that at the end of the day so they’re not missing class,” she said.

Ellingson and Holt have been working with school administrators and coaches on ways to deal with potential problems.

At CV in the fall there’s a possibility of bringing in temporary lights for the practice fields or finding alternative field options.

They also talked about a free period at the end of the day.

That would allow practices to start earlier and alleviate lost class time on travel days.

Those solutions are not without problems.

There is the cost of bringing in lights and the extra travel time and cost of  busing teams to an off-campus practice site.

Holt said CHS was discussing the possibility of getting all the basketball players the last block of the day off.

“The problem with that is you’re not going to be able to do that for everyone,” he said. “And the coaches will either be teaching during that last block or if they’re not teaching, they’ll have to use it for prep time and grading papers. 

“I don’t know if that’s a viable solution or not.”

Ellingson and Holt aren’t overlooking the potential positives of the new schedule.

They know it will give teachers additional opportunities to work together and with students.

They are waiting to see whether the positives outweigh the negatives.

“My feeling is we’re trying to help our graduation rate,” Holt said. “I guess the proof is yet to be seen whether that is going to happen.

“We’ll see.”


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