Each spring dozens of student athletes from Ogdensburg Free Academy are dismissed early from school several times in order to ensure their bus arrives to away games on time.
With students from Ogdensburg traveling to games in Massena, Malone, Brasher Falls, Fort Covington and Brushton, places that are anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and twenty minutes away, students are often dismissed at 2 p.m. in order to arrive to these contests on time, something that was a point of contention with Board of Education member Michael J. Tooley.
I think we need to avoid early dismissals at all costs, he said, citing a one week stretch of the varsity softball season, where the girls played four games in four days and had early dismissals three days in a row.
While not downplaying the importance of academics, Athletic Director Anthony E. Tony Bjork said there really isnt anything that can be done to eliminate the early dismissals.
Were at the mercy of the other schools, he said, adding section rules dictate the starting time for weekday events with golf contests starting at 3:30 p.m., track and field meets starting at 4:15 p.m. and baseball and softball games starting at 4:30, with a mandated 30-minute warm up period before the games.
In the fall, Mr. Bjork said soccer games and cross-country meets start at 4:30, with volleyball games starting at 4:45 p.m. and with football games being played in the evening.
To limit the impact of early dismissals, starting next year, only non-Regents courses will be offered during the days final period.
High School Principal Cynthia L. Tuttle also explained that the school day in Ogdensburg ends later than the majority of other districts in the county.
We end later than if not all of, most of the other schools in the county, she said, explaining their school day ends at 2:53 p.m.
Board of Education member Laurie J. Zweifel asked if it was possible to start the school day earlier.
We proposed going from 7:30 to 2:30, Mrs. Tuttle replied, adding that proposal was shot down several years ago by then OEA President Richard F. Platt.
Has there been any more thought about changing the start time? Ms. Zweifel asked.
Its negotiated, Board of Education Frederick P. Bean said, explaining that the beginning and end of the work day are included the teachers union contract.
Even if the union would agree to an earlier start time, though, Mr. Vernsey said thats not something hes in favor of.
As an educator I am not in favor of starting earlier, he said. Research tells us we should be starting later.
Mr. Vernsey suggested trying to speak with Section x officials and lobbying for later start times.
Even 20 or 30 minutes would make a difference, he said, adding as the spring season goes on, there is more and more sunlight available.
But until start times are changed, Mr. Bjork said his hands are tied.
Did I like scheduling four games in a row? No, but we had to get them in and the rules say the games must be played the next available day.
Mr. Bjork noted the problem is mostly a spring season problem when rain often wires out contests. In the fall, lacrosse, soccer and cross-country meets are unlikely to get cancelled, even in the event of rain and in the winter basketball games and wrestling meets have later start times.
Despite the early dismissals though, Mr. Bjork pointed to the number of teams the district had qualify as New York State Scholars Athlete Teams, meaning they had a cumulative team average of 90 or above, listing girls lacrosse, boys golf, both track and field teams, softball and baseball. Mr. Bjork also added the boys lacrosse team was very close.
According to Mr. Bjork 43 percent of all the districts athletes earned All Northern Academic Honors, with 61.7 percent of their athletes being named New York State Scholar Athletes, meaning they had averages of 90 or above.
We have very good student athletes here, he said.