I strongly urge everyone to consider the following points as the KSHSAA Board of Directors vote on Tuesday, Nov. 24th to adopt or not to adopt the Winter Sports/Activities Delay proposals:
1. We must do more to promote the wearing of masks, washing hands and social distancing as much as possible. There needs to be more public safety messages on our media outlets, newspapers and social media sites. Our students and athletes are bearing the brunt of this epidemic because of adult choices. Whether the research that supports the wearing of masks is believed or not, we need to wear masks. If there is skepticism, come to our schools, they are the best indicators. It's truly remarkable what our Hays High School students and staff are doing in regards to wearing masks, social distancing and wearing face-shields just to be able to stay COVID-19 negative, go to school and participate in activities. Hays High averages less than 1% positive cases on a daily basis out of 991 students and staff members in a community that is at a 15% overall positivity rate of tested cases. None of the Hays High positive cases to date have been contact traced back to transmission at school or school related activities. That is the truth.
2. We need to keep the decision-making process regarding the playing of sports/activity schedules at the local level. We need to have confidence in our local officials and administrators to work together with other districts to use local COVID-19 data to drive decision making for sports and activities. Issuing a blanket policy for the whole state is a one-size-fits-all-approach that isn’t necessary for all districts.
3. Schools have adopted and enforced more consistently the protocols that ensure safety during school and events compared to other entities in the state. There have been numerous sports activities take place both indoors and outdoors since June 2020 i.e. MAYB, wrestling, volleyball, football, etc. As per the KSDE, sports related clusters have accounted for only 373 out of a total of 128,594 total cases to date in KS. That's .03% of all the cases documented in the state. Again, schools are the safest places to be other than homes. Why shorten the seasons and risk having students explore other ways to fill their time that could put them and others at risk?
4. We need data-based information to explain the rationale for delaying winter competitions until Jan. 15 if we are limiting fans anyway. That data needs to be more drilled down and more specific in regards to showing the effects of implementing such policies. There is no data that pinpoints that school related activities, or moving interscholastic activities indoors are accountable to the recent rapid deterioration of Kansas health evidenced by elevated positivity rates. It is understood that fewer events equals less exposure risk, but again schools are already limiting fans therefore eliminating the transmission possibilities.
5. Hypothetically, extending the moratorium would put our students at a higher risk because they would be filling idle time by possibly going out and socializing in the community where case rates are higher. As per the KSHSAA rationale, the proposal would limit contact between coach/athlete/school but there's no data to support that being a problem area. Our local data shows that schools are the safest places to be for kids other than their own homes.
6. If season competitions are limited to the numbers proposed, there is the possibility of losing even more games/events to teams being quarantined, cancellations, etc. which could possibly mean fewer competitions than the number proposed. This happened during fall sports. Let’s start with a full season and play as many games as possible. We learned during the fall that we can adjust and move on. Allow the same for winter sports. Again, let local officials and administrators work together to do their jobs to ensure the safety of the students, staff and community members at local sports/activities events.
7. Again, hypothetically, if restrictions are placed on high school seasons, there is also the possibility that we run the risk of losing student athletes to non-KSHSAA member schools, club teams, AAU teams, attrition/quitting etc. This happened during the fall when students began to go to other states to try to play. This would only be displacing the problem because athletes would possibly be competing in unmonitored events during this pandemic or again finding other ways to occupy their time in the community.
The rise in COVID numbers across the state and the country can't be denied and should be taken seriously. But, the proposed measures that appear on the surface to possibly mitigate the spread of COVID-19 are hypothetical at best and not data-based enough to justify limiting activities for our students. However, there is data to support continuing the current KSHSAA schedule as long as sound locally controlled protocols are put in place that help mitigate the risk.
We need to keep our students engaged and motivated to stay healthy, get a quality education and participate in full seasons of activities.
Lance Krannawitter is an assistant principal and athletic director at Hays High School.