School Athletes and Musicians Head Back Early

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Just after dawn Monday, minivans and sport utility vehicles lined up in front of Allen High School. Stickers on the back windows identified the early risers: Band. Volleyball. Cross country.

But for the first time in many years, these athletes and musicians are not hitting the books just yet. In the past, students would have already been starting classes this time of year in local school districts such as Allen, Keller and Plano. Instead, the new Aug. 27 start date for all Texas schools eliminates uneven gaps from district to district.

One thing hasn’t changed, though. If you’re in a sport or another extracurricular activity, like band, you’re still up early. University Interscholastic League athletics such as volleyball and cross country started practicing this week. Bands started Wednesday. Football teams that did not hold spring practice, as well as some teams from smaller schools, also started Monday; the rest start next week.

The later school start makes for a virtually year-round school year. And it makes for one long stretch for athletes, coaches, band members and others in activities that begin in early August. In most districts, the school year doesn’t end until June. Despite the later school start, UIL officials say they have no plans to alter their start dates for extracurriculars. Doing that would push competitions into December and beyond, affecting other activities.

UIL athletic director Charles Breithaupt said the early August start gives students ample time to acclimate to the heat and adequately prepare for a full fall season. “Any time there’s a school calendar change, there’s never a good way to accommodate everyone,” he said. Many parents, school leaders and students said that starting school later takes some getting used to, but that the new setup isn’t so bad. “It gives you more time to think about sports and relax more about getting ready for school,” said Emily Arcement, a freshman volleyball player at Keller Central High School.

Before this year, if you attended a district that started school in early August, you were forced to juggle homework with working out. “This time, we don’t have the hustle and bustle of the school year to contend with,” said Susan Elza, assistant athletic director in Allen ISD.

Tristin Brower, a South Grand Prairie High School senior and a drum major, said the late start gives the band more time to acclimate to the summer heat. Once school starts, UIL rules will limit after-school practice to eight hours a week, she said. “Because school hasn’t started yet, we get 3 ½ weeks of full days, so we get more accomplished in summer band,” said Tristin, 17. “It definitely gets you in the habit of practicing outside.”

The extra practice time has another benefit, said Dianne Hranicky, president of the South Grand Prairie band’s booster club. “They really get to know each other before school starts,” Ms. Hranicky said. “It’s such a large body of kids, and this year we have a large number of freshmen, so this gives them a jump start on everything: learning the music, when to be where. continue reading

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