High school athletics: Later start times to impact schedule, revenue

Decrease of rental revenue, practices ending at 9 p.m., difficulties for swimming and ice hockey facility rentals, and conflicts with game scheduling — these are all possible impacts later start times could have on high school athletics.

Athletics Director Dane Street outlined the negative impacts of pushing back the clock at Ridgefield High School during a presentation along with Principal Stacey Gross at the Board of Education meeting Monday, June 12.

Street feared a 8 a.m. — or even 8:30 a.m. — start time would push practices for all three levels of athletics, varsity, junior varsity and freshman.

He specifically cited basketball, tennis, and golf as the three sports most directly affected by the potential change.

“We have teams that practice one after another: basketball, tennis…

“In those cases, pushing the ending of school back certainly is going to push back the entire thing,” Street said.

“We don’t have additional facilities to send people to. Our current basketball runs to 7 or 8 o’clock so we’d be done at 9 o’clock, there’s a reality to that...

“For golf, right now we play out of Silver Spring, they have a hard tee time at 3:45 p.m.”

Early dismissal

Street said that a shift in the high school schedule could mean an earlier dismissal time than usual for away games.

“For a lot of away contests, we do dismiss early, not for practice,” he said.

“I really try to not dismiss early,” Street told the board. “I think it’s important that students are in class as much as possible.”

He said that the bulk of athletic early dismissals are about 15 to 20 minutes before the last bell. Moving toward later start times at the high school could mean that students lose more instruction time if the opposing, hosting school can’t accommodate Ridgefield’s later dismissal schedule.

Two to tango

Street said that so far, with only one school in the league — Wilton — with later start times, others have been able to move games around.

He said that with Greenwich making the change next year it will be more difficult; and, if eventually Ridgefield decides to switch, then working around three schools with later start times would be even more complex.

“When it comes to Wilton and Greenwich, they have reached out to other schools to accommodate later start times,” he said.

“We do what we can — as each school that comes on it gets a little bit tougher.”

He also explained that post-season games are not as flexible and can’t be moved around as much, since there are dozens of participating schools.

‘Tipping point’

Board Chair Fran Walton said that as more districts implement later start times there, scheduling could get easier.

“There may come a tipping point at some stage in the future, New Canaan, Brookfield … other schools are talking about it,” she said.

The FCIAC and CIAC (Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference) have taken different positions on later start times.

“The CIAC put out their position statement that they’re in favor of [later] school start times but I would say they don’t deal with ramifications of it on a day-to-day basis, as opposed to FCIAC,” said Street.

Away games

According to Street, away games pose the biggest challenge.

“We can manage our own home events nicely for the most part — it might impact the community but we can manage,” he said.

“But if we’re going to a school that doesn’t have lights we’re forced to make decision of early dismissal or dropping out of those games...

“It’s hard to know what the impact is going to be without a specific direction,” he said.