Athletes speak out over loss of games
Heat-related school closings wreak havoc on practices, schedules in Balto. County
Sixteen Dulaney student-athletes, frustrated over the loss of games and practice time this week after the closure of schools without air conditioning, went to Baltimore County Public Schools headquarters in Towson on Friday afternoon to try to meet with Superintendent Dallas Dance.
Dance wasn’t there, but they met instead with his chief of staff, Michele Prumo.
The Dulaney athletes — from the field hockey, girls soccer, golf and cross country teams — could not understand why they, and athletes from the county’s six other non-air-conditioned schools that were closed Thursday and Friday, could not practice or play games while athletes from the other 17 high schools could.
The field hockey team had been holding daily practices led by its captains, and members wanted to know why they couldn’t play this weekend. Their game tonight against Westminster at Johns Hopkins’ Homewood Field will be rescheduled, but not at Johns Hopkins.
Prumo told them the decision was based on safety. Because not all county studentathletes could make it to practice this week, county schools officials didn’t want to risk anyone’s health by putting them back onto the field today, when the heat index is expected to be high again.
Officials, she said, try to be fair to athletes at all of the high schools that are closed because of a lack of air conditioning — Dulaney, Kenwood, Franklin, Lansdowne, Woodlawn, Patapsco and Overlea.
“The best explanation we got from her,” field hockey player Emma Klein said, “was that it’s like a full system of schools, so if one school doesn’t have kids that can get transportation to their practices, then no one else can practice.”
Still, Klein said, there’s a “weird disconnect” that the other 17 high schools in the county can practice while they can’t.
“It’s frustrating to know that other teams are out there getting a huge advantage over us,” field hockey player Kiley Bolonda said.
Cross country runner Contrell Goode works out on his own but said that’s not the same as running under coaches’ supervision. “You want to build up stamina, and since we’re not practicing, I’m not building up enough stamina,” he said. “When I’m going against other people [in meets], they’re trained better than me.”
Mike Sye, coordinator of athletics in Baltimore County, said teams will be able to practice today, though they have to be finished by 11 a.m.
In Baltimore City, there were no games or practices Thursday or Friday, when schools closed early because of the heat, so schools officials canceled today’s games. Football games will be made up at 2:30 p.m. Monday.
In Baltimore County, all six football games involving teams from non-air-conditioned schools have been canceled and will not be made up. Most games in other sports can be made up because of the scheduling flexibility for teams that play more than once a week. Teams playing in tournaments, however, will lose those games.
Games in the county cannot be made up Monday because teams are not allowed to practice or play on the Muslim holy day Eid al-Adha, which begins at sundown.
Friday was the fourth day the county’s non-air-conditioned schools have been closed in the first 13 days of the school year. Under a new county policy, those schools are closed when the heat index is forecast to reach 90 degrees by 11 a.m.
Frustration among athletes and parents has continued to grow as their teams sit idle while others around the county continue to practice and play.
Football teams likely have the most to lose, because only four teams make the playoffs in each region. The affected teams now have a nine-game schedule rather than a 10-game slate. Although changes can be made to the sport’s scoring system to make it more equitable, bonus points awarded for wins over successful teams can help clinch a playoff berth.