Prince George's County high school football coaches, citing several safety concerns, hope to meet soon with school system officials in an attempt to increase practice time later this summer.
Teachers in the county are scheduled to report for work Aug. 16, one week before the first day of school on Aug. 23. Prince George's coaches are prohibited from holding practice during school hours as of Aug. 16 -- two days after the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletics Association allows football teams to begin working out.
Normally, football coaches prefer to schedule practice twice daily before students begin attending classes. Under the new guidelines, they would have to set practice times at about 6 a.m. and after 3 p.m., and players would not be allowed to remain on school property between sessions.
Several coaches said there are safety concerns about requiring players to be at school so early, then forcing them to leave campus when many of them do not drive. There are also worries about players not eating adequately at such an early hour.
"If you truly believe it and those are issues about the safety of our kids, how can you go out there and coach, knowing the circumstances?" said Suitland's Nick Lynch, president of the Prince George's Coaches Association.
Coaches said they use two-a-day practices to work on conditioning, and that if the sessions are separated by several hours, many players might not come back.
With school starting earlier, football coaches will not receive the 10 days of per diem they had received in previous years for working before teachers normally reported. That totaled between $2,000 to $4,000 for most coaches.
Among Washington area schools, only Frederick County begins classes as early, though its teachers do not report until Aug. 18. Many school systems, including those in Montgomery, Howard and Anne Arundel counties, do not begin classes until Aug. 30.
The District of Columbia begins classes on Sept. 1, and many other jurisdictions, including Baltimore City and most in suburban Virginia, do not begin classes until Sept. 7. With classes starting later, football coaches in those jurisdictions can hold practices twice daily with meetings in between, essentially creating a training camp.
Friendly Principal John Brooks, who represents principals on schools chief Andre J. Hornsby's executive council, said he had yet to hear from the coaches association.
"As soon as they contact me, I'll be glad to talk to them," Brooks said.