Athens City Schools Alters School Days For Championship Game

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Update 12:00 p.m.

Athens City Schools sent out this email to parents regarding Thursday's early dismissal and Friday's late start.  School is now being released at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday for middle and high schools and 2:30 p.m. for the elementary schools.  School will start at 8:45 a.m. Friday for the middle and high school and 10:05 a.m. for the elementary schools.  The full email is below:

Several people have contacted our offices asking for additional information as to why school is being shortened on Thursday and Friday of this week.  Some are dismayed that a decision of this nature would be made for a football game.  This e-mail is an effort to help parents to better understand this decision.  While we certainly don’t expect that everyone will agree with this rationale, we felt compelled to provide it nonetheless.

For the first time in the history of the Athens City School District, we have a team competing for the State Championship in Football.  As luck would have it, the game for Division III, of which we compete, was scheduled in Columbus at 7:30 p.m., with pregame beginning at approximately 6:30 p.m.   The team will leave the District at approximately 3:00 p.m. and the band will be leaving the District sometime around 4:15 p.m.  Additionally, many of our faculty, staff, and student body will be attending this momentous event.  When afternoon bus routes are run at regular times, they extend until approximately 5:00 p.m., making it difficult for those employees to get turned around and safely to the event in Columbus: Not to mention the time constraints placed on those families intending to attend the event together.  The game itself will run until at least 10:00 p.m., with trophies awarded and post-game photos and media opportunities extending much later.  Many of our students, parents, faculty and staff will not be returning to Athens County until the early morning.  For this reason, we felt it necessary to have a slightly later start on Friday morning.

Unfortunately, this is a situation where there is no one best answer.  The Administration certainly values education, but also understands the strong connection between extra-curricular activities, building a sense of community, and academic excellence.  This balance sometimes requires difficult and controversial decisions.  At the least, we are hopeful that parents will better understand that this decision was made in the best interest of our families and community members who intend to participate in this historical occasion to support our young men and women who are actively representing the Athens City School District and the communities of Athens, The Plains, Chauncey, Dover, and Millfield, not only in football, but Cheerleaders and members of the Athens High School Marching Band.  This may not be a big event for every member of our community, however it is an event unlike any other, as it is literally once-in-a-lifetime and includes a number of students that is unequaled in any other single extra-curricular competition.

This morning, we spent some time discussing this issue with representatives at the Ohio Department of Education to determine if there were any issues related to the proposed plan to shorten the day.  We were advised that it would be in the best interest of the District to adjust this schedule to a 1:30 p.m. middle school/high school early release and 2:30 p.m. elementary school early release on Thursday and a 8:45 a.m. start at the middle school/high school and a 10:05 a.m. elementary start on Friday(essentially a one-hour delay). This adjustment will allow us to provide additional travel time to those attending the event while also assuring that the District is not required to make up school days at a later time.

We fully understand that not every parent or community member will support this decision, however we are hopeful that you will understand that it was made with the best intentions of our students and families in mind.

The Administration would like to wish the best of luck to our high school students who will be representing the Athens City School District in Columbus on Thursday.

Athens City Schools will be dismissing students early on Thursday afternoon and starting the school day a little later on Friday to allow for students, staff and family members to attend the state championship game on Thursday night.

"This is the first time I know of that we have been in the state finals and we play on Thursday," said Supt. Carl Martin of the decision to call for an early dismissal and delay. "There are hundreds of students and others that want to support the team and attend the game. At the same time we are trying to minimize the disruption to school and students."

The high school and middle school will dismiss at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, with the elementary schools dismissing at 1:30 p.m. The entire district will be on a two-hour delay on Friday.

The game is in Columbus, with kickoff at 7:30 p.m.

Martin said by dismissing the students early it will allow people to get to the game and allow the district to get buses ready. The delay Friday is needed due to the lateness of the game, said Martin.

While the decision may be popular with many in the community, it is not setting well with all of the district's parents.

A post by Annie Howell on the website titled "Football Shouldn’t Trump Education — Call Today" calls for the district to make up the hours or reconsider the decision. The post reads,

"Parents for Participation: I’d like to urge you to call or email Carl Martin’s office today with the following suggested message: 'Superintendent Martin, While many in Athens are excited for the AHS football game, for other students and parents football is simply not a priority. We urge you to find a way to make up the four hours that will be lost this week. There are many families in Athens for whom football has very little meaning — but luckily, education does. Please don’t send this message that football trumps class time to every family in Athens — make up the hours or reconsider your decision.'"

Within an hour of Martin's announcement being posted on The Athens Messenger's Facebook page, there were numerous "likes" and comments wishing the team the best of luck.

Tickets for the state playoffs are on sale at the high school until Thursday at 11 a.m.