The Lodi School Board approved all winter sports and other district co-curriculars to move forward with its seasons and competitions. The decision was made after a two-hour discussion during a special meeting on Oct. 26.
During the discussion, District Administrator Vince Breunig again noted that regardless of the decision the Board makes, some people will not be happy.
“If we allow this, then some will feel like we’re prioritizing sports,” he said. “If we don’t allow this, then some will ask why we are taking away opportunities from the student-athletes.”
“You’re being asked to make this decision with minimal guidance,” Breunig said to the board regarding the lack of guidance from area and state health departments.
The board was in unanimous approval on four different recommendations made by Breunig. The first thing approved by the board was that if students participate in athletics, they must stay in the enhanced online learning model through at least the first semester (Jan. 15), regardless if the district moves into a blended model.
Secondly, the board approved that Lodi follows the Capitol Conference guidelines at all times — wearing face coverings at all times, screening requirements and two spectators allowed per athlete within the household. The conference will review all its guidelines by Jan. 16.
Thirdly, the board approved that for the safety of all the players and coaches, the district amends the Code of Conduct to incorporate COVID-19. All athletes must self report symptoms during routine checks, and if it is later found out that an athlete wasn’t honest when conducting screening or contact tracing, it will be considered a major violation of the code. Any consequences will be served after any needed quarantine period.
“This was a good one,” Bill Wipperfurth said, who made the first motion on all four recommendations. “It puts the responsibility on the people that are wanting to play.”
Lastly, the board was in approval of all Lodi sports and co-curriculars moving forward with seasons, but to not allow any competition with other schools until Dec. 7. It gives a two week grace period after Thanksgiving for all of those who choose to be gathered with extended family for the holiday.
During the approvals of the recommendations, Board Member Steven Ricks addressed his fellow members.
“I’ve struggled with this (decision) a lot, and up until yesterday, I was on the fence,” he said. “I’m a believer in listening to the leaders. If we want to beat this thing (COVID-19), we hunker down and stay home. This decision goes against that for me … This is not an easy decision and I’m not taking it lightly. … We are getting no guidance on any of this, we’re not getting leadership from the state or federal government. The administration, coaches and players have made a compelling case. I also believe that the metrics chosen are good to follow, but we are a long way from in-person learning. We had a first step in bringing a few kids back, and now this is the second step. We now are relying on parents and students to do the right things. We (the board members) all had to fill out a survey to come in this room (board room). Given all the considerations, this (allowing winter co-curriculars) is the right thing to do. We are moving in the right direction.”
Guidelines for winter sports and other competitions including wearing face coverings at all times and using separate busses to transport each cohort of athletes. All equipment and locker rooms will be sanitized and disinfected between uses and sanitizing supplies will be available for all practices and events.
When hosting events, all staff and volunteers will be screened and all spectators will comply with procedures. Each coach will have a list of spectators for each event and have a plan to notify attendees if a positive test was confirmed during that time frame.
All agreed to set a limit on two spectators per athlete (within his/her household), and away teams must comply with that, and all other guidelines.
Before voting on one of the recommendations, Barb Beyer wanted Bruenig to clarify one of his recommendations. Breunig initially said that any student that participates in sports must stay in an all-virtual instructional model for the duration of the season, even if the district switched models mid-season. Beyer questioned it because there were already a select group of kids coming in for extra instruction, and she didn’t want any who may be athletes to be told to stay away from the buildings for three months.
Breunig initially recommended all stay away because if the district were to switch models, it would limit exposure as the student-athletes travel to and from events. Putting those kids back in a school setting would increase the risk for teachers and staff. However, Breunig was OK with those kids staying in the enhanced online model during the co-curricular season.
“Im OK with that. It raises the risk a little bit, but not a ton,” Breunig said.
The same goes for any student in a co-curricular who may have an in-person competition (debate, forensics, etc.). All district clubs will be allowed to meet in-person (wearing masks and keeping their distance) without being subject to remain in the enhanced online model.
In a separate motion, the board agreed to also allow middle school sports to go forward, as it was noted that 30 kids are in the middle school wrestling program and about 35-38 are in the basketball program. Those competitions can begin as soon as possible, with a mandatory two-week break between Thanksgiving and Dec. 7. The board was in unanimous approval.
Each team will be limited to two one-hour practices during the week and no more than 10 players and two coaches can be in a single pod, or cohort of participants.
Prior to the board’s two-hour discussion, and subsequent decision, coaches and parents addressed the board to speak on the topic.
Several were district coaches and a few others were parents of winter sport athletes. Cody Endres, Michelle Puls, Mitch Hauser and Brent Richter were the district coaches to speak. All who addressed the board — parents and coaches — were in support of allowing the winter sports and other co-curriculars to move forward with its seasons and competitions. A local wrestling official also spoke in support of a return to sports, noting that wrestling has long had guidelines in place to prevent the spread of viruses and diseases.
Parents and coaches expressed concerns that if winter sports weren’t allowed, that student-athletes would go and play with club teams. All agreed that it would be safer to have the athletes under the guidance of the Lodi School District, rather than outside entities.
All of the district coaches laid out specific plans and guidelines on how each would handle their specific seasons. All the details provided helped the board make its ultimate decision to move forward.