SAN ANTONIO – Friday night football action will start a bit later for San Antonio’s two largest school districts.
A bus driver shortage, ongoing construction and rush hour traffic has forced North East and Northside ISDs to bump all their Friday games back to 7:30 p.m.
“In the big picture, it definitely is better for all of our students and all of our community,” said Alfonso Alvarado, O’Connor HS director of bands.
Alvarado has been the band director at O’Connor High School for six years. Last week, his band, made up of 225 students, was held up in heavy traffic and congestion and missed some pregame activities before O’Connor played Johnson at Comalander Stadium.
“We were able to get there safely and be a little behind, but nonetheless, we were there to support the team,” said Alvarado.
Both districts agreed this week to move kickoff back to accommodate bus drivers and the other students involved with Friday night football.
“It was kind of a perfect storm. It’s a shortage of bus drivers, the timing of when schools are letting out and it’s also the construction is going on Loop 1604,” said Kelly Parker, NEISD executive director of athletics.
The earlier start time was putting a strain on drivers taking kids home and then returning to campus.
“We were already running double runs at the elementary level, at the middle school level, at the high school level,” said Tesi Soliz, NISD director of transportation. “By the time the bands, pep squads were requesting us, we’re still running kids home.”
Soliz said this is also a sign of the growth in the area.
“Taft, Harlan, Sotomayor, Brennan -- all of these high schools are in one of the fastest growing zip codes in the nation. The infrastructure hasn’t caught up with the growth,” said Soliz. “We can have the best laid out plans to get our kids to from point A to point B on time, but because of traffic, that is really putting a wrench in a lot of our plans.”
The hope is now everyone that makes Friday night football great can get to the games safely and on time.
“People emailed us, called us with their concerns about it and wanted to know what we’re doing and how we can fix this, and we’ve listened to them,” said Parker.
“We take at least 14 buses to a game. I think the district does an amazing job. Our drivers do an amazing job,” said Alvarado.
Officials from both districts said the time change is expected to remain in place for the rest of the regular season only on Friday nights. Thursday and Saturday start times will not be affected.
“Our athletic department, fine arts director, they do an outstanding job of communicating. We’re the largest district in San Antonio. We have over 100,000 students to try to get from point A to point B very safely,” said Alvarado. “I think our district has done a really good job taking care of our students and obviously, safety is always top priority.”