A vote was passed Wednesday by KSHSAA governing body in regards to delaying winter sports. The details of the proposal can be found HERE.
1. We must promote the wearing of masks, washing hands, and social distancing as much as possible. Our students and athletes are bearing the brunt of this epidemic because of adult choices. The research supports the wearing of masks even if you don't believe in them. If you don't believe, come to our schools, they are the best indication. It's truly remarkable what our students and staff are doing in regards to wearing masks, social distancing and wearing face-shields just to be able to go to school and play. HHS averages less than a 1% positive rate on a daily basis out of 850 students. None of the positive cases to date have been contact traced back to transmission at school. That is the truth.
2. We need data-based information to explain the rationale of delaying winter competitions until Jan. 15th if we would be limiting fans anyway. The data needs to be more drilled down and more specific in regards to showing the effects of implementing such policies. In other words, how do we know that these policies will mitigate the spread when there's no data to back up the hypothesis? Implementing policies because of the recognition of the recent rapid deterioration of Kansas health evidenced by elevated positivity rates, the impact of other illnesses on top of COVID-19 in an overburdened health care system, and moving interscholastic activities indoors doesn't provide a clear cut rationale to propose the delays. It is understood that less events equals less exposure risk but again we would be limiting fans anyway to zero to begin with therefore eliminating the transmission possibilities.
3. Hypothetically, extending the moratorium would put our students at a higher risk because they would be filling idle time by possibly going out and socializing in the community. As per the KSHSAA rationale, the proposal would limit contact between coach/athlete/school but there's no data to support that being a problem area. Our local data shows that schools are the safest places to be for kids other than their own homes. As long as we are dealing in hypotheticals ...
4. Schools have adopted and enforced more consistently the protocols that ensure safety during school and events compared to other entities in the state. There have been numerous sports activities take place both indoors and outdoors since June 2020 i.e. MAYB, Wrestling, volleyball, football, etc. As per the KSDE, sports related clusters have accounted for only 373 out of a total of 128,594 total cases to date in KS. That's .03% of all the cases documented in the state. Again, schools are the safest places to be other than homes. Why shorten the seasons and risk having students explore other ways to fill their time that could put them and others at risk?
5. If season competitions are limited to the numbers proposed, there is the possibility of losing even more games/events to teams being quarantined, cancellations, etc. which could possibly mean fewer competitions than the number proposed. Why not start with a full season and play as many games as possible. We learned during Fall that we can adjust and move on. Allow the same for Winter sports. Again, let schools do their jobs to ensure the safety of the students, staff and community members.
6. Again, as long as we are dealing with hypotheticals, if restrictions are placed on HS seasons, there is also the possibility that we run the risk of losing student athletes to non-KSHSAA member schools, club teams, AAU teams, attrition/quitting etc. This happened during the Fall when students began to go to other states to try to play. This would only be displacing the problem because athletes would possibly be competing in un-monitored events during this pandemic or again finding other ways to occupy their time in the community.
The rise in COVID numbers across the state and the country can't be denied and should be taken seriously. But, the proposed measures that appear on the surface to possibly mitigate the spread of COVID-19 are hypothetical at best and not data based enough to justify limiting activities for our students. However, there is data to support continuing the current KSHSAA schedule as long as protocols are put in place that help mitigate the risk.
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Lance Krannawitter is Hays USD 489 assistant principal and athletic director.