The heat is on

School schedules put students, staff outside at summer's peak

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As teachers prepare for the start of school, coaches are gearing up to get their teams out on the field, with some having to make adjustments to accommodate a new calendar.

Kilgore ISD and Sabine ISD both approved new District of Innovation plans in the spring, which allowed them to move the first day of school to Aug. 21 instead of Aug. 28. What this does is also push the teachers’ in-service week ahead a week, into football and band practices.

For KISD, employees report Aug. 7 for in-service week with a planning week following Aug. 14-18. SISD teachers, however, report to their campuses Aug. 14 for in-service week. Then, Aug. 21 marks the first day of school for both districts.

The new District of Innovation calendar affects both programs’ practice times, although Sabine does not have in-service during what will be the first week of practice (Monday, Aug. 7 through Friday, Aug. 11).

Neither Kilgore nor Sabine have had actual “two-a-days” – the old-school term for two practices a day, normally in the morning and then again in the afternoon or evening – in a decade or more.

At Kilgore, coach Mike Wood has continued the practice theme of arriving before 8 a.m., being ready to go, and continuing throughout the morning before wrapping up between 11 a.m. and noon.

This year, though, Wood and his staff and players won’t get to do a morning practice that first week due to the in-service and planning weeks before the start of school.

Since Kilgore already practices in the hottest part of the day after school starts, Wood doesn’t see the change as the end of the world.

“We’ll have the kids come in around 3:30,” he explained, “and JV and varsity won’t hit the field until about 4:30. (Practicing in the afternoon) is not that big a deal, because that’s what we do when school starts, anyway.

“It’s nice to be able to practice in the morning that first week, but we’ll do what we need to do (to stay cool).”

Safety of the students has always been a priority for KHS coaches, no matter when practice takes place, KHS Principal Charles Presley said.

Although he is not involved in setting the specific protocols, he said, “Safety and precaution of the athletes is something they’ve always done a great job with and they take seriously.”

Students learn the importance of staying hydrated and eating healthy, while coaches monitor the student-athletes before, during and after practice.

“They’re going to do that regardless of when they practice. It’s not something that’s just important when they’re practicing in the afternoon,” Presley said Friday.

First-year Sabine High School head football coach and athletic director Rex Sharp will be able to keep his first week of practice in the morning – the Cardinals and their coaches practice from 7 a.m. until about noon, Sharp said, that first week, and then move to the afternoon format the following week, in the 3:45 p.m. range, he said.

“It’s not ideal, but we’ll make the adjustments,” he said. “We’ll do it right, so that our kids are safe. I think a lot of schools are probably implementing or getting ready to implement the district of innovation, and we’re just going to handle this the best way we can. We’ll enjoy that one week of morning practice.”

The District of Innovation plan has not brought any surprises for Sabine ISD Superintendent Stacey Bryce.

“It’s worked just like we had planned,” he said, adding he hopes it stays that way.

Sharp said he couldn’t think of any programs locally that actually still do traditional two-a-days.

“The old traditional ways of that are long gone,” Sharp said. “The UIL has its rules that we have to abide by and pay attention to, and that’s the way it is. We all want to be safe.”

KHS Band Director Cliffton Walker said the calendar change does not affect his students, as they will continue their practices, which began July 24, on an 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. schedule. Beginning July 31, the band will switch to an 8 a.m. to noon plan.

“We still have a good three weeks of our camp that we’re able to utilize,” he said. “What it does is it moved our teacher in-service week. Rather than having two solid weeks of camp before school, we’re just putting in-service in the middle.”

During that in-service week, students will get the mornings off and come in to practice in the evenings.

Overall, though, the students will have the same number of hours and same number of pre-school practices as other years. Walker also works with other KHS coaches to make sure students involved in other activities and sports can get proper instruction across all their extracurriculars.

The other three high schools in the News Herald’s coverage area – West Rusk, Overton, and Leverett’s Chapel –haven’t adopted the district of innovation program, and have their own practice methods.

Overton coach Richard Strickland said he plans no real changes from his first year, in 2016. The Mustangs will be early-risers – they’ll arrive at the field house at 7, and practice until about 10 a.m. each day, beginning Aug. 7.

West Rusk will also start practice on Aug. 7, but coach John Frazier has a different way of dealing with the heat.

He just doesn’t do afternoons. At all. Or mornings, either, for that matter.

The Raiders will practice at 6 p.m. that first day, and for the days after. They do night practices not only to avoid the heat of the day, Frazier said, but because that’s what his players seem to prefer.

“The kids like it,” he said. “They get to sleep late every morning.”

Frazier noted that the Raiders eliminated their afternoon practices years ago. “We have been going nights for three or four years,” he said.

Andy Bates, beginning his third year as head coach at Leverett’s Chapel’s six-man program, said the Lions will also be out in the mornings the first week, likely 7 a.m. until 10 or 10:30, and then try to go to afternoon practice the second week.

Bates said he hasn’t decided yet if he’ll do a midnight practice for the first practice in pads, a tactic some programs do to help fire up their players.

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