Leave program helps students balance school, athletics
LAKE PLACID – Public school students here are taking advantage of a program that lets them compete and train in the sports they love without falling behind on their education.
Roughly 15 student-athletes currently participate in Lake Placid Middle-High School’s educational leave program, which lets them take district-approved absences that don’t affect attendance records, grades, class credits or their ability to take tests. English teacher Amy Spicer coordinates the program with help from school guidance counselors.
“We support many sports,” Spicer said at a recent informational meeting with parents. “Luge, speedskating, figure skating, hockey, freestyle skiing, Nordic skiing, alpine skiing – we’re open and pretty flexible to accepting all sorts of sports, but we want to focus on those state and national tournaments and training for those types of events.”
To participate, students and parents are asked to fill out a form that provides basic information about where they are going, what they are doing and how long they will be absent. Students are expected to submit the form at least one week before they leave for a competition or training event, and then Spicer gives the sheet to Principal Rick Retrosi to be approved.
“Students have to maintain an 80 GPA,” Spicer said. “If we’ve ever run into problems, that’s been it, because a student may have slipped here or there.”
Once the leave is approved, it’s Spicer’s job to email all of the students’ teachers, as well as school secretaries and counselors, to make sure they are aware of the upcoming absence.
“Before they leave, they meet with me to write a checklist before they go,” Spicer said.
Spicer said teachers generally don’t have concerns when a student leaves. One of the big questions, however, is whether there will be a coach or another adult to supervise the student if they have to take a test, although Spicer said teachers will often wait for the student to return to administer it.
Spicer said she also asks whether the student will have internet access where they’re going.
“If there is, that’s very helpful,” she said. “Students can always email me or their teachers if they have questions or if they’re running into problems. Plus, a lot of the time, we as teachers use our websites as ways to communicate with our students – we put our lesson plans on there.”
Preparation before a trip is important, but Spicer said meeting with the students after they return is also a key part of the program.
“I usually give them a day to acclimate, to talk to other teachers, hand work in and kind of assess what they still need to do,” she said. “So I would meet with the students and say, ‘OK, where are we?’ We’d go through the checklist, mark everything off, and if there is a quiz or a test that’s outstanding, I try to say to the student, ‘When do you want to take that? Do you want me to help you organize?'”
Local athletes and LPMHS graduates like Andrew Bliss and Danielle Lussi – both ski jumpers – participated in the program when they were in school. In an email to Spicer, Lussi, who attends Harvard, wrote that the program enhanced her educational and athletic experience, and that some athletes from other public schools didn’t have the same support system.