Las Vegas Sun

May 30, 2015

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Sun Editorial:

Education should include opportunities in sports, activities

Jocelyn Jordan commutes to Western High School to play for the girls’ basketball team because her school doesn’t have a squad. As Sun sports editor Ray Brewer reported, sometimes she makes it on time, sometimes she doesn’t.

Jordan, a sophomore at Northwest Career Technical Academy, is at the mercy of public transit. Her journey requires her to catch two buses; she sometimes jogs in at the end of practice because of a late bus.

When practice or games are over, which can be well into the evening, it’s back to the bus stop to go home. She tries to do her homework on the bus so she isn’t up too late after finally getting home.

Teammate Tenaya Williams, a sophomore guard at Western, understands that. She takes the bus home, a trip of 3.1 miles. She knows the distance because she has walked the route and measured it.

But, admirably, these young women aren’t looking for sympathy — they know that’s the price they have to pay for playing high school basketball.

“If you really care about something, you will walk 3.1 miles for it,” Williams said. “It’s cool. I don’t mind having to take the bus or walk.”

That is a commendable attitude. It certainly isn’t easy for a student to try to juggle school and a sport, particularly when she knows she won’t be home until late and may still have to cram in homework. It makes for long days and not much sleep.

That’s hardly a recipe for student success, and not too long ago, students had a better option. The Clark County School District used to provide bus service to help students who were staying late for extracurricular activities but that service was ended about a decade ago in a round of budget cutting.

As Brewer reported, the lack of bus service dampens student participation in sports and after-school activities.

“I guarantee you a majority of the schools would get more kids involved if we had activity buses,” Ray Mathis, the district’s executive athletic director, told Brewer. “There are a lot of kids in that situation across the district.”

Western is part of the district’s “turnaround” effort. It is one of three low-performing high school campuses that are receiving extra money and attention as officials try to boost performance. As part of that effort, school officials should find a way to provide students the opportunity to participate in sports and extra curricular activities by offering some sort of way home.

This may not be a priority in a district that has struggled with low test scores, and it can be easy for some people to wave off sports and activities as “extras,” saying schools should be focusing on the basics and raising student achievement. Academics is vitally important, and it’s true that raising student performance has to be the priority. But that shouldn’t be seen as exclusive of sports and activities.

Sports and extracurricular activities are an important part of a student’s education. Involvement in activities helps students connect with the school. They also teach important lessons that can’t be replicated in a classroom — consider the friendships found among teammates or the bonds formed when students come together in a club to accomplish a task.

Without lessening the importance of academic achievement, life is much more than filling out the right bubble on a standardized test. Any turnaround won’t be complete until students have the opportunity to receive a well-rounded education, and that includes the ability to participate in sports and extracurricular activities.

And sometimes that includes help getting there.

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