The Marshall High School girls’ basketball team had completed its second day of practice when they received the message from district administration – the season was being postponed until Dec. 16. Dane County’s Emergency Order 10, which went into effect Wednesday, Nov. 18 at 12:01 a.m., prohibited indoor mass gatherings due to recent spikes in positive coronavirus diagnosis.

While not originally on the Nov. 18 Marshall School Board agenda, it was the heavily discussed by not only the board, but was brought forward during public comments. No decision could be made, but Superintendent Dan Grady did want some direction from the board, which asked him to make inquiries about what the district could legally do. The board scheduled a special meeting for Monday night, after The Courier’s print deadline.

Grady had discussed the previous winter sports proposal with the district’s legal and insurance providers, before the emergency order was announced, and said it would be OK. However, the providers may have different opinions in light of the emergency order.

“We’ve had a very short amount of time to process this,” said Athletic Director Matt Kleinheinz.

He’d already made arrangements with Cambridge High School, which is located in Jefferson County, to bring the Marshall basketball teams there once per week so the entire team can practice together. The wrestlers would already be practicing in Cambridge after the two high schools chose to create a co-op team for this year, which was approved at the meeting.

Kleinheinz believed it would still be possible for the teams to continue as planned, describing it as similar to youth basketball teams where they practice one or two days a week and then compete. According to him, coaches, students and families agreed with this option.

During public comments, athletes and parents made impassioned pleas to let the winter sports season continue as scheduled.

“With the new restrictions, nothing has really changed,” said parent Malinda Weisensel. “We knew we would have to play outside Dane County and now we have to practice (outside of county) too.”

Several also pointed out how safe the fall season was conducted, with none of the coaches or athletes contracting coronavirus, though a few needed to quarantine due to being in close contact with someone who did test positive.

Board President Debi Frigo said there was no denying things worked out well for the fall season but the new order “changes everything for me” when the teams are looking at work-arounds to leave Dane County for practice and games.

“Until I know more information, this doesn’t feel right to me,” she said.

Frigo was not the only board member who felt this way; Eric Armstrong also wanted to find more clarification from the district’s legal counsel. Cecil Chadwick added that she wanted to allow the students to play sports but the most important thing was for it to be done safely, furthermore, if the district disobeyed the public health order she was concerned about how it would be punished by the county.

Board member Staci Abrahamson was very blunt when saying “these decisions suck having to make,” noting there was no answer that would make everyone happy. She cited a study showing high school sports were not found to be a major source of COVID-19 transmission but there was less social distancing with winter sports plus there have been recent spikes in cases.

The date administration set to allow sports to continue – Dec. 16 – was based on when the emergency order prohibiting indoor gatherings would expire.

“Dec. 16 is when the order ends, but it’s not going to be all rose pedals on Dec. 17,” Kleinheinz said, adding several concerns about postponing the season including

Board Vice President Paul Wehking expressed similar concerns about students deciding to play club sports instead of on school teams, cutting down the season that is already shortened, and opponents canceling games because they don’t want to wait for the Cardinals to resume winter sports.

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