As with politics, re-districting is a big deal in prep sports. A sudden increase in attendance or a geographic where area lines are drawn can create havoc with a school's traditions and ability to compete on a level playing field. That's precisely what schools are now coping with throughout Texas, where a series of adjusted districts has launched some schools into strange new territories.
Of all those changes, none are more drastic than the uncertain, bizarre, road-weary future facing one high school in Amarillo where, because of an enrollment just 171 students above the cap for class 4A, all teams will be forced to endure average road trips of a total of more than 500 miles, round trip.
Yes, you read that correctly. As reported in detail by the Amarillo Globe-News, Amarillo (Texas) Tascosa High, in the middle of a statewide educational budget crisis, is being forced to have all of its teams travel an average of eight hours total per day when they visit any opposing squad. Such a schedule will essentially ruin any chance for the school's student athletes to maintain any semblance of a normal educational experience, with bus rides for a 7:30 p.m. start time in any sport having to start somewhere around 2:30 or 3 p.m. at the latest. Given an average game time of a conservatively brief 90 minutes, those students and coaches would then not get back until 1 a.m. … and that's on a good night.
When Amarillo school district officials rightfully protested the school's sudden forced promotion to Class 5A and the bizarre district it was thrown into, University Interscholastic League officials unanimously rejected its appeal, leaving the school district to shoulder an exceptional financial and logistical burden for the years to come, or at least until districts and classes are adjusted again.
"This is going to be very, very difficult," Amarillo Independent School District Superintendent Rob Schroder told a UIL appeals panel during a hearing on the school's move to Class 5A. "On average, every [away event] is going to be about 530 miles and that is an exceptional statistic. "This will be the farthest in school history Tascosa athletes will have to travel for road games."
Skeptical of that 500-mile average round-trip distance? The Dallas Morning News' Corbett Smith actually plotted out the distance between Tascosa and its new district opponents, and the number is dead-on (it's actually 500.5 miles, to be precise). Even more frightening, road trips to San Angelo (Texas) Central High, one of the new Tascosa district foes, will require a whopping 624-mile bus trip. That could take up to 10 total hours just on the road depending on stops and traffic conditions.
Of course, the travel issues don't even touch on all the additional expenses that will befall the Amarillo school district because of the new athletic arrangements. AISD officials have estimated that the additional travel will cost the district some $100,000 annually. That's more than the entire athletic budget for some Texas districts. And because of the amount of time students will be required to miss to make it to their events, the school expects to need additional discretionary funds for tutors as well.
Despite all those drawbacks, the AISD board president said that the school district would find a way to allow the school's students to keep competing in interscholastic sports, as they always have.
"We will do our best to make this work for all our kids and our teams, and try to do some innovative and creative approaches to either scheduling or how the learning time can be enhanced or expanded for the kids," AISD board president Anette Carlisle told the Globe-News.
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