The Waunakee school board has approved five contact days for its sports programs this fall, following requests from coaches to utilize the extra time with their athletes.

“A contact day is the WIAA’s term for what you might look at as a regular practice,” athletic director Aaron May said. “In a contact-day event, the coach can assemble, organize and direct just as he or she would during a normal practice in the regular season.”

The move came after the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) Board of Control voted to allow five contact days for winter sports, and 15 for fall and spring sports.

Waunakee coaches requested permission to use those days at the school board’s Oct. 12 meeting.

Treasurer Jack Heinemann disapproved of the request, arguing that the district should focus on getting students back in the classroom before allowing them onto a field.

“Our core competency is education,” Heinemann said. “We’re not comfortable bringing our high school (students) back until February or March. And I’m not going to support bringing back sports and so forth until we meet our core competency, which is education.”

Heinemann argued that other opportunities existed for athletes in the district.

“A lot of kids are playing in soccer leagues or AAU basketball,” Heinemann said. “There’s a volleyball club. There’s timed track events; there’s cross-country events… If this didn’t happen, the kids still have opportunities. You got rec leagues that they can participate in.”

President Dave Boetcher noted that district-sanctioned events had superior mitigation strategies than those outside the district’s control, where preventative measures are not always enforced.

He said practice schedules alone could reduce the risk of exposure among athletes.

“Take football,” Boetcher said. “If you have kids doing football in the district, and we’re putting some rules on it and there’s some restrictions, that’s four nights a week they can’t go join a rec league and they can’t join a club because of practice… So aren’t we helping by doing this?”

Director Mark Hetzel pointed out that the board had already allowed contact time for fall sports, which raises the question of equity were contact time not allowed for spring and winter sports.

“I have a hard time not approving the concept,” Hetzel said. “We’ve already done that since August, for those teams and kids that have some kind of fall activity. We’ve provided that for them, and it doesn’t seem to have caused us significant issues.”

Hetzel proposed that the board approve the same number of contact days for all sports.

Director Brian Hoefer motioned that fall, winter and spring sports each be allowed five contact days – the maximum WIAA has approved for winter programs. The motion passed by a 6-1 vote.

Superintendent Randy Guttenberg said future requests could be considered at a later date.

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