Friday, August 18, 2000
A more flexible vacation policy for high school athletes
Varsity athletes at Concord-Carlisle High School will be able to take a few more days off from games during school vacations. Under a revised varsity athletics and co-curricular activities vacation policy, several days during December vacation will be set aside when students can miss scheduled practices or games without any penalty. Also, students will now be able to apply to the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) for a waiver for any other absences during the school year.
Concord Superintendent Ed Mavragis changed the policy last year to allow students playing varsity sports to miss practices or games during vacations, due to travel or other family plans, without being penalized. Under the old varsity sports policy, students who were out during vacation could not play in the next game after their return to the team, or were referred to junior varsity teams. Mavragis made the change to the sports and co-curricular vacation policy on a trial basis last year to address some parents' concerns that sports and other activities demand too large a portion of students' time resulting in less time for them to spend with their families.
Currently, varsity athletes have up to four days off during April vacation to visit colleges, without a penalty for missing scheduled practices or games. This is coordinated with the Dual County League, of which CCHS is a member. February vacation often has scheduled tournaments with other schools and "parents accept this when planning vacations," according to Mavragis. The last week of August is also often scheduled with try-outs and practices for some varsity sports.
Thus December vacation became the focus of the policy changes. The policy will be amended to allow a block of several days to be set aside during the December vacation when students can miss team events without penalty. "The remainder of the time, students would be expected to attend practices, games, activities, etc.," according to Mavragis.
However, the superintendent noted that it is probably too late to block out dates for this December vacation, because some teams probably have prior commitments to play in tournaments.
Another change to the policy allows students to request a waiver from the MIAA to miss scheduled practices or games during the sports season. Current MIAA policy says "The request for a waiver must have the written support of the school principal, the athletic director, the coach and parent(s)." Mavragis said some coaches, concerned about their team's performance, did not want students to be out or waivers to be processed. "No coach can prevent an MIAA waiver being processed," he said, noting that Principal Elaine DiCicco will review all waiver requests and she has the authority to overrule a coach.
Changes part of a compromise
The changes are a "meaningful compromise for an issue with hardened sides," Mavragis wrote in a memo given to the Regional School Committee on July 25. After gathering opinions from students, parents and coaches on the controversial issue, he acknowledged that the majority of people are against changing the old vacation policy because they believe a student makes a commitment when they join a team. "When a student elects to play on a team, it does carry with it certain responsibilities and expectations. At the same time, our community should expect flexibility from coaches and the administration to deal with situations that are either out of a student's control or would benefit that student's life."
Mavragis has cited the need to accommodate students from divorced families who spend time with one parent during vacation, often away from the area. He has also said that the varsity athletic sports schedule impacts vacation plans for the athletes' entire families, including siblings.
Concord RSC member Nancy McJennett said she is happy with the MIAA waiver request process that will be available to students. RSC Chair Lauren Walters commended Mavragis for his "thoughtful analysis. I think you provided the correct result," he said. The policy changes were made by the superintendent and did not require a vote by the school committee.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito