La Jolla High’s later start time hits first hiccup: Residents bemoan lights, noise from early sports practice


With the roll-out of a later, 8:35 a.m. start time at La Jolla High School and Muirlands Middle School this year, some nearby residents were surprised to see the field lights come on at 5:45 one morning to accommodate an early practice.

Citing health and wellness for students, school officials are behind the pilot program to address the sleep cycles teens experience, which often mean waking up late. However, this led one resident to ask: “If sleeping later is better for students, why are athletic practices being held at 6 a.m.?”

La Jolla High Athletic Director Paula Conway explained that some sports teams — such as water polo and cross country — practice in the morning for safety and convenience. But on the early morning in question, the girls field hockey team was practicing.

“Some kids prefer it because they have other activities in the afternoons,” Conway said. “Whether those be practices for other sports, tutoring, clubs, etc. Water polo has always been in the mornings; and for the cross country team, athletes use City streets for practice runs and it’s safer because they are not in afternoon traffic and the weather is way better.”

Conway said the time change to an early morning practice came after a conversation between the girls field hockey coach and the team.

“There is an added benefit for those student athletes — exercising first thing in the morning gets them more alert and keeps them awake,” Conway said, but she cited the same complaint the Light received, and added: “For the girls field hockey team, we moved the practice back to the afternoon.”

Students who cannot make morning or afternoon practices, due to transportation or other commitments, have the option of an alternative workout at another time, she said.

“We would never schedule practices that are not conducive to what the kids want, and we have received no complaints from parents of athletes who have practice in the morning,” she said. “We’re trying to do what is best for our kids, and create an atmosphere of energy and enthusiasm ... but sports is an option, it’s not mandatory ... and there are only so many hours in the day.”

In announcing the later start times, principals Charles Podhorsky (La Jolla) and Geof Martin (Muirlands) acknowledged there would be humps to hurdle. In a joint letter to parents, they wrote: “Over the next several months, our staff (administrative, academic and athletic) will be working on ensuring that this transition will be a seamless one for our students and community.

“We know that major changes require adjustments on all our parts, so we hope everyone will have enough time to make proper preparations at home to ensure that the introduction of Healthy Start goes smoothly.”