Once again, it is summer in the deep South. The heat is soaring. The humidity is unbearable. Fans and air-conditioners are running full time, and we are drinking everything we can find. Common sense tells us to take care of ourselves. So, we do everything we can to keep safe from heart attacks, heat strokes and other heat-related illnesses.
Well, most of us are using common sense. In my opinion, those in charge of high school sports are not. That is the Georgia High School Association. They are the folks who make the rules for most things regarding high school competitions including football and band. That includes scheduling when practices begin and when games are played.
Last week, an Atlanta high school marching band was at Reinhardt University, just up the street from where I live, preparing for the upcoming football season. News reports said eight students became sick, and two were taken to the hospital. The cause of their distress was attributed to being out in the extreme heat.
It is a rare year when we do not hear about students getting sick, collapsing or even dying while they are practicing for or playing fall sports. "Fall sports" is an all important term. You see, fall is not here yet. We are in the middle of the summer doing things that could and should be done during cooler weather.
Since the school year now begins earlier than it did in the past, GHSA must think football season must begin earlier, too. It is one thing for our students to be in air-conditioned classrooms with the early August school beginning dates. But it is ridiculous for our high school players and marching band members to be practicing under the blazing hot sun at this time of the year.
It is easy to see that GHSA needs to adjust its calendar. Some want to argue that reworking the calendar cannot be done. It would run football season into other sports seasons. It would affect the dates for the playoffs, etc., etc., etc.
Some seem to have forgotten that the No. 1 responsibility of everyone in Georgia's schools is to protect the physical safety of our children. That is more important than reading, writing and arithmetic or Latin, trigonometry and physics. When we put our kids out in heat like we are doing now to practice football and march waving big flags, carrying tubas and big drums, we are failing to protect them. In fact, in my opinion, this is, or borders on, child endangerment.
Now do not blame our coaches or our band directors. They are doing everything they can to protect our kids under very difficult conditions - providing an abundance of drinking water, practicing during the coolest part of the day, etc. Plus, they are endangered just as the students are.
So, who do we blame? Those who make the decisions about when practices and competitions begin. Start with the GHSA. The schedule the organization publishes is by necessity very complex. Making adjustments will not be easy. It will be a massive task. But the current schedule should not be a sacred cow. The safety and lives of our children are at stake.
Is it time for local boards of education to mandate change? If enough boards of education will give GHSA an ultimatum to stop this madness or their schools will pull out and form another agency to govern sports, you can be assured GHSA will reschedule the calendar.
Those of you reading this column who know me personally may be thinking, "Why were you not saying this when you were Cherokee County's school superintendent?" The answer is simple. The school year did not begin in the middle of the summer back then.
The directors of GHSA are well-educated and experienced coaches, athletic directors and school administrators. I am sure they are good people.
But with all of their education and experience, why are they are not using their common sense?
Most of us have heard that "if we always do what we've always done, we'll always get what we've always got." It is time for change. Otherwise, we will continue to endanger our students, our coaches and our band directors. In some incidences, the results may be tragic.
Marguerite Cline is the former mayor of Waleska and a former county school superintendent.