Longer days, new bus routes spell problems for public school athletes

Longer school days and new school bus routes are creating new problems for thousands of Oahu public school students.

The state Department of Education has extended school days, meaning most schools now end class at around 3 p.m.

Because of that, sports like football and volleyball games start later, which means they end later too.

The change is already impacting the football games, which used to end around 10:30 p.m. Now schools say kids don’t leave the stadium until closer to midnight.

School buses need to get students home from school at the end of the day before they can pick up the teams and get them to the games. The OIA was informed of this last year, so it changed the kick-off times for JV games from 4:30 to 6 p.m. and the varsity games follow right after.

“We’re trying to make the best of things because we can’t really control these things as far as the bus availability,” said OIA executive director Raymond Fujino.

McKinley High School played Leilehua in Wahiawa last weekend. Schools officials say by the time students got back to school in town, put away their gear and went home, it was almost 1 a.m.

“There’s a good number that catch the bus home,” said McKinley High School athletic director Bob Morikuni. Because of the danger, “we’re hoping that nothing happens and their parents step up and they can pick them up.”

McKinley plays its home games at Roosevelt High School, so they’ll be playing there this weekend. With the game in town, students won’t likely get home so late, but there’s another problem. The residents who live nearby will probably complain about the noise.

Schools have been told that the band needs to stop playing by 10 p.m. and with the later start times, that’s only about halftime.

“When our band and our cheerleaders have to leave at halftime because it’s already 10 o’clock and we want to get them home at a safe time, it’s a little bit different the atmosphere,” said McKinley High School principal Ron Okamura.

The state also started a new contract for school buses, worth $21 million this year on Oahu, with two companies, Roberts Hawaii and Ground Transportation, to cover more than 300 routes.

The state had a contract with five companies last year, so schools say the bus schedules are more limited this year.

The bowling team at Kapolei High School will miss some classes, because the bus has to pick them up early. “The other side of it would be to start it really late,” said Kapolei High School principal Elvin Esmeralda.

The OIA says a possible solution would be to move the junior varsity games to Saturday afternoons so there will only be one game on Friday nights.

At this point, school officials are working with the DOE to come up with a solution. Roberts Hawaii says it will work with the schools athletic directors to improve the situation.

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