Monona Grove High School will compete in winter athletics this school year. The School Board voted Dec. 29 to allow Monona Grove High School (MGHS) athletes to participate in winter sport competitions outside of Dane County for the 2020-21 season.

Prior to the board’s decision, winter athletes at MGHS were prohibited from competing in competitions as per Public Health Madison Dane County (PHMDC) COVID-19 guidelines, with the only exception being club sports, which are not sponsored by the school district.

Winter sports at MGHS include boys’ and girls’ basketball, girls’ gymnastics, boys’ and girls’ hockey, boys’ swimming, and boys’ wrestling.

The high school joins several other Dane County school districts that approved the start of winter sport competitions outside of the county. Others include McFarland, Belleville, DeForest, Deerfield, Marshall, Verona, Waunakee and Wisconsin Heights.

At the time of the board’s vote, Madison, Middleton-Cross Plains, Mount Horeb, Oregon, Stoughton and Sun Prairie are the only remaining schools in Dane County who have not yet allowed athletes to compete in winter competitions outside of county limits.

All sporting events will need to abide by PHMDC’s Emergency Order 11, which prohibits indoor gatherings of more than 10 people who do not live together.

Physical distancing and face masks will also be required.

The guidelines are a bit different for competitions held outdoors, which can allow for up to 25 individuals who do not live together.

In an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19, winter athletes will be asked to take extra precautions outside of sports as well.

“We will need to rely heavily on parents monitoring and screening their children for symptoms [of COVID-19],” said Monona Grove Athletic Director Jeff Schreiner. “Coaches will strongly encourage their team to keep their bubble to teammates and family only.”

The board’s decision comes after the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health released a study suggesting that participation in high school sports does not necessarily increase the likelihood of contracting or spreading COVID-19.

The study looked at 207 schools consisting of roughly 30,000 athletes, 16,000 practices, and 4,000 games. Of the 30,000 athletes, 271 contracted COVID-19, but only one case was able to be traced back to participation in sports.

Despite nearly two and a half hours of deliberation, the board’s vote was not unanimous. Board member Peter Sobol was the sole member to vote against the motion.

“A healthy Madison high school student did die of COVID-19, and that’s a reality we need to be very careful about,” Sobol said. “The best thing we can do for our students and our community is to put this pandemic behind us.”

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