The Lodi School Board approved the start of football, volleyball, boys soccer and girls swimming for high school athletes. The teams will compete in the “alternate fall” season, which begins next month.

Those four sports were deemed high risk back when the Board made the decision in the summer to not allow some sports to compete in their traditional fall seasons. At that time, only cross country and girls tennis were approved for competition by the Board.

At its Jan. 11 meeting, the Board gave the OK for the start of the four sports that were held over from the fall, but also issued a caveat. Because the Board meets in February — before competitions begin — those teams may still not be allowed to compete, depending on the COVID-19 situation over the next few weeks, especially as students will return for in-person instruction on Jan. 19. If the COVID-19 situation worsens at the local level, or spread is seen throughout the schools, the Board then may chose to deny competitions for those four sports.

Board member Steven Ricks made the motion to allow those teams to start practicing, with the option to “change course if things don’t go well in the return to school.”

One district staff member did speak against a Jan. 19 start date in the public input session, wanting the date pushed back. He noted that amid the pandemic, a return to in-person has pushed some teachers away, decreasing the quality of teaching in the four schools.

Athletic Director Sue Meffert noted that transmission through competition is very minimal for athletes and their schools. Through the several weeks of the winter sports season, Lodi has seen only four athletes test positive for COVID-19, which has forced other cohorts to quarantine. Also, just one opponent player tested positive after competing against Lodi.

The six levels of basketball — boys and girls — have played a combined 38 games through Jan. 11, with one game canceled for JV girls and 1 at each level for the boys teams. LHS and LMS wrestling each have had four duals with no cancellations.

Much of the same safety precautions seen during fall and winter sports will carry over into the alternate season competitions. The only difference Meffert noted for the alternate fall season is that Lodi will take away its symptom screener of spectators during home events. Athletes, coaches and opponents will still be screened daily, she said.

More specifically, each sport will have certain guidelines. Girls swimming will have no spectators due to space constraints in the pool, and locker room access for athletes will be limited. All swimmers will wear face coverings when not in the pool, and the water sanitation level will be increased to elevate the chlorine levels. Large meets and all award ceremonies will not be held.

For soccer, football and volleyball, face coverings must be worn at all times, and no personal equipment will be shared between athletes. All respective balls will be disinfected frequently. All athletes in locker rooms must practice distancing. In volleyball, side-by-side courts will be eliminated and teams will not switch benches between games. In football, the number of players allowed on the sideline will be limited.

It is still undetermined if the middle school will have a volleyball season this year. Meffert noted that 25 kids are signed up for the month-long season that begins in late February, but she has not found any opponents due to other schools either playing in fall or not offering the alternate season. It is possible that the middle school team will just have practices and scrimmages against each other this season.

In other news, the Board unanimously agreed to renew the charter that the district has with the Ouisconsing School of Collaboration (OSC) for another five-year period beyond its current agreement.

CARES funds to the district

School District Business Manager Brent Richter gave a brief presentation regarding the CARES funding that the district received. He said that the district received $97,000.

Additional expenditures due to COVID-19 for the district will be around $330,000-$430,000. But factoring in the CARES money, Richter said the total should only amount to around $250,000.

The district was also able to save some money throughout the first half of the year due to not need busses and only paying Kobussen drivers about 83% of normal when not in service. Richter said those saving will balance out when the district begins running double routes as students return to in-person instruction.

Richter added that school districts are to get more subsidies, but is unsure how much would be awarded to the Lodi schools. Also, the district has been considering an HVAC Ionization system, which would help ventilation in all buildings. That project could carry an additional $235,000 price tag.

Richter noted that the district is currently under budget, but where things will end up in June is still unknown.

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