Leaving School Early for Sports

This article was written by Maia Pasco, a junior in the journalism class here at U-32. 


“We obviously want our kids to be in class all day, but there’s only so many hours in a day, there’s only so many weeks in a season, and there’s only so many chances to get in a game.”


Derek Dunning, U-32’s Athletic Director strives to find a balance between students’ education and athletic lives. However, miscommunications between teachers and students have left many struggling. Students are constantly missing the same class due to sports, causing teachers to continuously chase them down in order for them to make up the work. 


“It matters on the teacher, some are more accommodating than others” said Habib Meiloud, a student and a 2 sport athlete. As a student athlete, Habib finds it challenging to find time to connect with the teachers to make up for missed work. “Actually missing the material in class can be the most difficult part, because the rest of the class has to keep moving on,” he said. 


Other students have found similar struggles when trying to find times to make up missed work. “It was definitely hard to keep up with everything while I’m missing so much school,” said Amelia Dubois, a student and Alpine skier. She found it especially challenging as most of her day long races were on the same day every week. “It felt like as soon as I would finish a race.. I would have another one to go to.” 


U-32’s Alpine Team (Maia Pasco/Chronicle)


Many teachers also notice the effects missing school has on their students, “they’re trying to do the best they can…but I can imagine for some it would be stressful” said Aanika DeVries, a science teacher at U-32. She also remembers her time in high school trying to make time for both school and sports, “I think it becomes a lot to juggle.” 


However, Meg Allison, a librarian and cross country coach at U-32, believes that missing school can teach students to manage their time. “It’s really learning the art of balancing your athletics with your academics and with your social life,” she said. Although that is hard for many student athletes, she believes it will benefit many in the long run. 


Apart from the effects on students, this also has a huge effect on teachers. “It’s highly disruptive, and it’s disrespectful to the faculty and the students,” said Randy Brown, an AP science teacher at U-32. 


Randy finds it challenging to find time to make up whole classes with individual students, especially when it’s the same students missing class every week. “It’s not just once in a while… it’s every single day,” he said. 


Meg finds coaching a sport puts extra weight on her coworkers, which can be a struggle. “It puts more of an impact on my team to cover for me if we can’t find a sub” she said.


Aanika prefers her students to leave in the middle of class instead of missing the whole class because “students have been introduced to what we are doing and they have a sense of the work they need to make up” she said. It also depends on the activities being done in class. “If they are taking a test and they talk to me ahead of time they can get it rescheduled” she said. She finds the bigger problem to be missing hands-on activities, which are harder to make up alone. “They might do it independently and they don’t necessarily get the same out of it.”


However, she believes one of the bigger challenges is the number of students who don’t follow up. “You know, some definitely are [following up], there are also some who are not at all and it feels like they have to be chased down,” said Aanika. This can cause an extra burden on the teachers who are having to constantly chase down students to complete their work. 


When it comes to sports scheduling, most of it is done by the Vermont Principals Association (VPA) and also depends on facilities such as lights or playable fields. Most of the scheduling is also done in advance, “It’s done about two seasons in advance every year…then it’s up to each school depending on their facilities to pick the actual date,” said Derek. 


U-32 Tandem is used for all scheduling and cancellations for school events (Maia Pasco/Chronicle)


Another struggle is timing due to the amount of daylight. “That’s just the nature of living in Vermont, we often have to travel a great distance to get to another school so that we can play before the sun sets” said Meg. Aanika also has similar thoughts on the matter. “When I think about time and the times in our days, especially in a place like vermont…the travel time is kind of challenging,” she said. 


However, with sports that can compete under the lights a challenge can be arriving home late. Amelia struggled with this a lot over the winter. “We had some races that didn’t start until after school and we didn’t get home until midnight,” she said. 


Along with the difficult scheduling system, one of the biggest issues is the busing. “I think what really is the issue is bus scheduling,” said Habib. He remembers a recent track meet where they had to leave an hour and a half earlier than expected because the bus driver was needed back for an afterschool route. 


U-32 Boys Track Team (U-32 Raiders Instagram)


This same issue occurred many times this fall, “we had to leave an hour earlier than expected because the bus company couldn’t make transportation work at the original time,” said Derek. 


Because of the bus driver shortage in our district, many sports teams find themselves leaving school earlier than needed for sports events, due to the fact that a bus driver is needed back at the school for a route that happens at the end of the day. 


“I don’t ever want our kids to miss class, but this is the nature of having to operate sports with the weather,” said Derek. However, he sees many challenges in scheduling sports later in the day, “it’s just the nature of not having lights, and a short season” he said. On the other hand, he believes that rearranging the daily schedule to have core classes in the morning and electives in the afternoon would help students not miss as much core content. 


“It has to change…because this schedule is not working” said Meg. In her ideal world school and sports would be more embedded. She believes that by creating a schedule with the afternoon dedicated to sports would greatly cut down on students missing school and help to convince more kids to join sports. 


Habib believes that for sports such as Cross Country and Track the coaches could pick to attend more weekend meets instead of ones during the school day. “Try to prioritize the ones on the weekend that can be done without missing any school,” he said. He feels that this would help with both bus scheduling and missing school. 


Aanika agrees with the idea of having more weekend games. “Games of a certain distance requiring travel can only happen on Saturdays” she said, however, she is not sure what the results of this would be. She wishes that  there was more time to fit everything in, “in my ideal world…there would be more time in a day for us to fit everything in.”


As a science teacher, one of Randy’s big concerns is the environment. “We also have to look at things in terms of climate change and costs,” said Randy. He believes that if we were to play more local teams, it would reduce costs on busing and would be better for the environment. In addition to helping the environment, playing more local teams could help reduce the amount of time school students are missing for travel and would require less bussing. 

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