Archive for Thursday, August 7, 2003

Year-round school would impact athletics

August 7, 2003

Although any action appears to be far off, the Basehor-Linwood School District has already begun looking at possible plans to accommodate a potential overcrowding problem that may develop within the district in the next few years.

Don Swartz, the district's director of building operations, said overcrowding has become an increasing concern and instead of waiting for the problem to happen, members of the district have already begun investigating ways to combat the problem.

Among the possible solutions Swartz outlined, which included installing mobile units, going to split-schedule schooling or a tri-semester schedule, was the possibility of year-round school.

"Year-round school has come up, but right now only in relation to what we would do if we run out of space in our buildings and we can't pass a bond issue," Swartz said. "

Swartz said the discussions about year-round schooling have been few and far between and that they have only been preliminary. But if the district continues to grow at its current rate, they might become more active in the coming years.

In the past two years alone, there has been a substantial increase in the number of homes built within the district's boundaries. And with 2,200 homes already on an approved list, the growth appears to be moving rapidly.

During the first day of enrollment earlier this week, the district counted 23 new students enrolled that it had no idea about.

The effects of overcrowding would not only resonate within the district academically, but a change in schedule would potentially impact athletics more than anything.

Down the road at Bonner Springs High School, year-round school is even closer to becoming a reality. But with the potential for change in the air, several BSHS coaches have recently voiced concerns about what a switch in schedule would do to athletics.

Most coaches who would be effected by the switch said carrying on with games and practices while school is not in session would be a dubious task.

Although nothing has been stenciled in stone yet, Bonner Springs-Edwardsville School District superintendent Robert Van Maren has made it clear that the district is considering switching to a balanced calendar to help students become better learners.

With breaks instituted at the end of each nine-week quarter, Van Maren said the need for summer school would decrease and the number of students struggling to catch up throughout the year would be smaller.

Academically, nearly everyone agrees that the new system would make sense. Even the coaches who are opposed to it see the educational benefits of a system like the one Van Maren has proposed.

But that does little to change the system's effect on athletics.

The first and biggest concern among BSHS coaches relates to playing games and continuing seasons while student-athletes and educators are on a break.

"I just think it would be really hard on athletics in terms of time restraints," BSHS football coach Lew Kasselman said. "Schedule-wise, we just can't stop in the middle of a season. It just wouldn't work."

Swartz agrees with that primary concern and he said if and when the Basehor-Linwood School District faces a similar problem, the effect on athletics would be seriously considered.

"If it's still true that the No. 1 factor that determines success in life is participation in activities, then we would have to give serious consideration to how any changes we make would effect athletics," Swartz said. "There are a lot of real sound educational reasons for year-round school to occur, but we'd want to look at the impact on athletics before we did anything."

The plan, which has not yet been accepted, denied or endorsed by the Bonner Springs district, calls for the students to get two or three weeks off between each 45-day quarter.

The purpose of the time off would be to allow students to catch up on and further enhance the skills learned during each quarter instead of waiting to do it in one lump sum in the summer.

Kasselman, who also teaches history, said the idea makes sense from a teacher's standpoint. However, because he's a coach, he said he has to look at things from both angles.

"Of course, I have to look at the other side of the coin, too," Kasselman said. "I'm not trying to be negative. I'm sure they are looking at all angles on this and they'll make the right decision. But from an athletics standpoint, it isn't the best idea."

Another big complaint among those in athletics is that not being in school during the late part of the football and basketball seasons would take away from the game-day buzz and any pep assemblies that have been done in the past.

Assistant football coach and head track coach Jim Mitchell said when he played high school ball being at school on game day was the best thing in the world.

"Any time kids aren't in school but still have to play games that day, it's tough," Mitchell said. "They don't have that same routine and they don't get to experience that game day feeling."

Bonner Springs athletic director and girls basketball coach Garold Baker agreed with Mitchell's sentiments.

"As a coach, you just hate playing games on days when the kids aren't in school," Baker said. "It's just not the same. And if we go to this schedule that's going to happen."

Both Baker and Mitchell said they weren't against the idea of the balanced calendar, but that they would like more information about the specifics.

"Are these life or death matters? No. If we have to go to it can we adjust? Yes," Baker said. "But athletically, I just don't see how you can find something positive in this."

Perhaps on the field it might be difficult to find positives. But Van Maren said that plenty exist.

The most obvious positive aspect he sees has to do with eligibility.

"The athletes who are doing poorly are going to stay eligible because they're going to be caught up and aren't going to be failing," Van Maren said. "This isn't a vote for type of thing. What it's designed to be is a way for us to talk about what's best for our kids academically. Because that is our No. 1 role as educators."

Van Maren said he has not heard directly from any of the coaches about their concerns. In fact, he said he's only heard from two people about the issue.

However, he has heard through the grapevine that the idea is not being well received and he's not alarmed by that.

"I'm not seeing anything I wouldn't expect," Van Maren said. "We have a very professional group of coaches and a very passionate group of coaches in this district. They're also excellent educators. I'm not sure where we're headed and at this point I'm open to anything that will help students."

Swartz echoed Van Maren's sentiments, in saying that whatever's best for the students is what the district would do. But exactly when that is and what impact it will have is nearly impossible to predict. However, he said the district is keeping a close eye on the situation.

"A lot of it depends on how the economy holds and how fast the homes are built," Swartz said. "But if it keeps going like it is, it may happen very soon."

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