Student Athletes Face Several Disruptions in School Day


Courtesy of the DHS yearbook

Cross country runners have had to leave as early as four hours before the end of the school day for a meet.

As Loudoun County Public Schools has moved many high school start times to 15 minutes later, there has been a slew of issues impacting students. Though the 15 minute change may seem small, the change has had a major impact on student athletes, as these students have had to miss class in order to make it to their games, meets, and matches on time. 

Fall sports have already experienced this disruption, with field hockey, golf, and most prevalently, cross country, having early dismissals during the school day to arrive at their sporting events on time. Cross country had eight meets, four of which needed students to leave school early in order to get to the meet in time. These dismissals have been as early as 12:30, leaving students to miss part of the second block, and all of third and fourth block. 

With the cross country and track teams prominently having absences during the day, it leaves many to choose between participating or staying at school. “I think it is absolutely terrible and irresponsible that LCPS administration and transportation has put us in this position for three consecutive years now. It is unacceptable that they have not come up with a solution, a compromise, or spread the burden to other teams to help our student-athletes and that they are forced to miss so much class or choose to miss competitions,” said John Wesoky, head coach of cross country, winter track, and track and field.

Though these students can be missing upwards of 4 hours of school for one meet, no additional assistance has been provided for these athletes.

“We have had student-athletes every meet choose to opt out of participating because of all of the missed class time. It is patently unfair to them to have to make that decision and unfair to the team to not have our full team at competitions. Unfortunately, after three years of this and no indication that anyone in administration will make a change, some athletes are considering not competing in our sports any longer,” Wesoky said. 

This problem is not seen just by coaches, but by Dominion administration as well. Student-athletes taking high level classes have been met with lots of demands in class that they are missing.

“For students who have AP classes, honors classes, dual enrollment classes, this is a serious problem. The real problem here is that one particular sport that many kids participate in all year long, are being repeatedly pulled out of class for really significant parts of time. My concern about it is that if that has to happen because of bus transportation, that burden should be shared by other athletes, like volleyball players and field hockey players, in the winter, basketball players and wrestlers, gymnasts and swimmers. It shouldn’t all rest upon the shoulders of student athletes in a single program. I’ve been battling Loudoun County Public Schools about this for six months and getting absolutely nowhere,” Dr. Brewer said. 

As the end of the school day has been pushed back it increases the likelihood students will miss significant events in class. “Sometimes it’s fun because we get to miss class. But when there’s a big test or when we’re in lecture, then it’s annoying, but we made a commitment to play sports. [This year,] I think I’ve missed two tests and a lot of math lessons, which have really impacted me because I don’t know what the material is on and we have tests often,” varsity cross country and track athlete Stephanie Santis said. 

As the winter sports season approaches, even more student athletes will be experiencing disruptions, as it was announced that all six basketball teams (freshman, JV, and varsity for both boys and girls) will be played at the same location. This means that the start times for freshman/JV will first begin at 5pm, a mere forty-two minutes after school ends. The estimated release time will be roughly at 3:30, according to the athletic department.

“For those six teams, when we travel away, the two teams that have the 5 PM game will be on the first bus, and then the varsity team that plays the 6:15 game, which could be either the boys or girls because it’s a rotation, will also be on the first bus, which leaves during school. The second varsity team and the other JV or freshman team will go on the second bus after school,” Athletic Director Darrell Wilson said.

For the upcoming basketball season, there are twelve away games. Six of these games will occur on B-Days, and 5 will be on A-Days, accounting for over 11 days in which student athletes will have to leave their last block early. 

This new change is due to the lack of officials apart from NHSL as well as the lack of buses in LCPS. “The first request came from our officials association. In recent years, the number of those individuals who are willing to officiate high school games has diminished. Being able to cover the county, there are 17 high schools and all those games at one night, and we used to schedule boys at one site and girls at the other, which creates double the need of officials, and this actually cuts that issue in half,” Wilson said. 

While the basketball players won’t experience as much lost class time as XC has, they will consecutively miss class time in their fourth and eighth block classes. “I really don’t like [the missed class time,] it’s probably my least favorite part of it. It’s not fair to the teachers, and it’s not fair to the kids, because they’re not getting out of stuff and they’re still going to be expected to do their work that they’re missing. It’s pretty annoying when you’re a teacher and coaching, because you’re going to have to get subs for probably 30-45 minutes of classes, which is not ideal at all,” assistant boys varsity basketball coach Anthony Demott said. 

The ultimate decision of scheduling games and meets that require students to leave early has not been met without opposition, however. Players, coaches, and parents have all voiced their concerns on the amount of time students have spent out of class, and have even demonstrated proper solutions to the issue. “[LCPS could] move some other sports games to Saturdays to free up some buses during the week and eliminate the problem. We compete on weekends all the time so there is absolutely no reason field hockey, volleyball, lacrosse, soccer, etc. can’t do the same,” Wesoky said. 

Other solutions Wesoky voiced included balancing the burden of the early dismissals by having other teams get early dismissals throughout their season as well as implementing the last resort of reducing the number of competitions during the season for all sports. 

Demott said, “If it has anything to do with not paying bus drivers enough or refs they need to probably consider doing that so that this is not an issue. I’m not mad at anybody. It’s just unfortunate the way it is. But I think maybe they didn’t think things all the way through in terms of how it affects other people and teachers.”

Another group that is negatively affected by this would be parents of the athletes. “This doesn’t just impact students. The fact that parents and families aren’t able to see their athletes compete because of early start times is also unfair to our teams and our community,” Wesoky said.