Principals want stadiums to stay closed in darkness; But board, near a vote, delays it to hear Hickey


High school principals in Howard County have recommended that there be no expansion of lighted stadiums and that students not participate in supervised practices and games during exam week.

Both issues were on the agenda at last week's Board of Education meeting, and in each case, the principals decided to recommend that the school board keep things as they are.

Don Disney, coordinator of athletics, presented a report on expanding lighted stadiums, and Gene Streagle, instructional coordinator for the school system, gave a report on participation in extracurricular and athletic activities during exam week.

Stadium lights were installed at Howard High in 1962, and it remains the only county school with lights. The issue of adding lights has been raised periodically, and the latest effort was spearheaded by the Glenelg High School Booster Club lighting committee.

After listening to Disney's report, school board members Karen B. Campbell, Stephen C. Bounds, Sandra H. French, Jane B. Schuchartdt and Laura Waters added their comments.

At one point, Bounds told the board he was interested in moving to allow individual schools -- with community approval -- to make their own decision concerning lights.

School Superintendent Michael E. Hickey appeared surprised by what direction the board was taking. Three members -- Bounds, Schuchartdt and Waters -- gave strong indications they would approve Bounds' motion.

"I would urge the board not to take a vote on this tonight," Hickey said. "I would just suggest that you give yourself the luxury of a little more time and I would like the opportunity to bring you back a recommendation on it, too."

No motion was made, and Campbell, the board chairman, ended the discussion by saying: "We look forward to having the superintendent bring back some data and a recommendation."

Hickey is expected to present his report in November. The last time Hickey gave a report addressing this issue was in 1987. He rejected expansion.

Glenelg's lighting committee submitted a report to board members in hopes of gaining their approval. The report said, among other things, that the lights would be used primarily for Friday night football, boys/girls soccer and boys/girls lacrosse games, and that the cost would be borne by the Glenelg booster club, through corporate sponsors and fund-raisers.

Disney's report acknowledged that "the benefits to the community from lighted stadia are appealing. However, the current after-school format supports an outstanding academic and athletic program. These facts, coupled with the need for staff and students to have sufficient rest and preparation time for the academic day, are of a higher priority. These priorities, plus the easy access to schools for league competition, justify a position against expanding lighted stadia to the other Howard County high schools."

Concerning extracurricular and athletic activities during exam week, Streagle presented a revised schedule that was received well by the board.

Last year, teams were not allowed to practice four consecutive days -- Martin Luther King Day, a Monday, and three exam days. Practice resumed Friday afternoon, and games were played Saturday. Coaches said failing to maintain supervised conditioning for four days, then having only one day of practice before games, could lead to injuries.

The 2000 exam schedule starts a week after Martin Luther King Day, avoiding one of last year's problems. Here are the dates:

Jan. 21 -- Schools close at noon. Practice allowed.

Jan. 22 -- Practice allowed.

Jan. 24-26 -- Exams. No practices.

Jan. 27 -- Final day of exams. Schools close at 10: 30 a.m., practices resume at 2 p.m.

Jan. 28 -- Regular school day.

Jan. 29 -- County athletic schedule resumes.

Streagle said "there was discussion, and quite heated, I would add," among the principals about allowing one hour practices during exam week. "It went back and forth and consensus was still reached that we should continue to avoid having anything else during exam week but exams."

Pub Date: 9/30/99

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