Later start times could quadruple classroom hours lost to sports, AD says

Pushing start times back at the high school could see student athletes losing up to about 5,698 classroom hours — more than four times as many as students lost last year, according to Athletic Director Dane Street.

Street said those numbers are the “worst-case scenario” under the plan that shifts start time at Ridgefield High School from 7:25 to 8:30.

Street presented his report to the Board of Education March 9.

“It’s possible that we lose the marginal athletes,” Street said. “They may decide, with the later start times, that they don’t have enough time to get everything done.”

The worst-case scenario assumes most FCIAC schools would not make scheduling accommodations for games played against opponents with later start times.

The report assumes that the high school will let out at 3:20 p.m., or one hour and five minutes later than it does currently. The scenario does assume that Greenwich and Wilton would both shift their scheduling for games with Ridgefield, since both those school districts have already moved to later start times.

“The current practice is that most FCIAC schools do try to accommodate requests for later starts,” Street’s report said. But that might change, as “each additional school moving in the direction of later school dismissals compounds the difficulties.”

Street said the New Canaan school system has already said it won’t make accommodations for schools that end later.

Current model

If teams at the high school continue to place well, Street’s report said, then the number of early dismissals for games will also continue to be high, since the district will be invited to play in more league, state, and New England championship events.

Under the current start times, of the 66 early dismissals in 2016-17, 53% were due to regular-season contests, Street said. State (CIAC) and league (FCIAC) events made up the remaining 27.3% and 19.7% of dismissals, respectively.

Of the dismissals, 46 — 69.7% — were let out between 1 and 2 p.m.

Busing

The report also assumes that varsity and junior varsity players will continue to be bused to events together, and that the district’s student athletes continue to win as they have in the past, “thus participating in league, state, and New England championship events,” Street’s report said.

He suggested that the schools could transport junior varsity and varsity teams separately in order to keep some players in school longer.

“But then, of course, there’s an increased transportation cost,” he said.

‘Pushback’

Board Vice Chairman Doug Silver asked bluntly whether the schools could simply not play schools whose away games would cut deeply into Ridgefield athletes’ time in the classroom, such as Trumbull High School and St Joseph High School.

Street said Ridgefield would have to forfeit those games with Trumbull, since the games are scheduled by the FCIAC league.

“The problem is that now, instead of accommodating for one school — Wilton— now we’re going to be the third school in the FCIAC, so we’re beginning to see a little bit of pushback,” Street said.

Silver appeared frustrated.

“I’m tired of every other district doing it, and not us,” he said, referring to later start times.

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