By the time you read this, West Central Area Activities Director Jacob Foslien may be scrambling to put together a fall sports season for football and volleyball. In August, the Minnesota State High School League Board of Directors moved both football and volleyball seasons to the spring because of concerns with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Then the MSHSL threw a curve ball at schools, last week, by announcing they were considering sponsoring a shortened football and volleyball season. They announced they would revisit this decision on Monday, Sept. 21 at a Special MSHSL Board of Directors meeting. Last Wednesday, the WCA School Board discussed the situation.
“The MSHSL wants to know what each district thinks,” WCA Superintendent Dale Hogie explained. “They want us to respond to a survey by noon tomorrow.”
Hogie said he met with Activities Director Foslien and Secondary Principal Susan Knutson and lay out some of the benefits vs risks, educational, and student impact of reinstating a football and volleyball season. He said the decision to move the fall football and volleyball season was made for the safety of the students, coaches, staff, and families.
“And nothing has really changed from then,” he said. “We also don’t want competition to infect other student bodies. Nationally, football and volleyball are ranked as a high risk for infection.”
Superintendent Hogie said we all understand the desire for competition. He added that he started his career in education because he wanted to be a coach.
“Athletics provides students with great opportunities, great benefits.”
Hogie said there are factors favoring allowing a fall football and volleyball season: Survival rates for young people under 30 is 100 percent; over 1,000 football games have been played nationally this fall without evidence of community spread; there is some evidence that the mental health of students is affected by not being allowed to participate; and, overall, the rates of infection in Minnesota are declining.
Hogie went on to say that while people, naturally, want to get back to normal. If the MSHSL Board of Directors reinstates FB and VB for this fall, indications are:
* There would be between four to six football games with practices starting as early as Sept. 21. Volleyball, most-likely would start October 12, with the number of games yet to be decided.
* Winter sports would have to have their start times pushed back, and those schedules would be adversely affected.
* Many football or volleyball players, especially in smaller districts, have chosen to join cross country or tennis programs. Now they would have to choose what to play, and this would affect cross country and tennis programs negatively.
* If a football player tested positive for COVID-19, they, and probably most of the players on the team, would have to be quarantined for 14 days, resulting in missed practices and games.
Hogie polled the school board members, who supported the administration’s decision to stick to the original MSHSL plan to move fall football and volleyball, and add it in the spring of 2021. However if the MSHSL does reinstate FB and VB for fall, WCA would support that decision as well.
Editor’s note: on Monday, the MSHSL voted to reinstate the fall football and volleyball seasons, starting Sept. 28.
Technology Coordinator Kevin McNamara reported, to the school board, that he is as busy as he has ever been.
“Not because things are broken,” he claimed. “But for a good reason, teachers want more, they are using the technology in new ways, which is a big shift. I am proud of our teachers and students.”
Community Education Director Naomi Moerke reported that she is working on the fall brochure, and in a waiting pattern to see how things progress as the school gets underway.
“I am looking at trying to get some sort of mini camps, for football and volleyball, if I can in October.
Moerke said students are using the before and after school childcare program at North and South.
She said there are between two and six students using the Wrap-Around program currently.
“We’re using the drop in price of $35 per day as parents can use that cost up to four days of usage.”
Both Elementary Principal Natalie Prasch and Secondary Principal Susan Knutson reported that the school year is off to an excellent start. Knutson said students and teachers are excited to be back in school and working very seriously on pandemic safety.
“The flow from bus to school is going well, but the hardest is to maintain social distancing during non-structured time.
Knutson reported that there are 485 students registered in grades 5-12, with 21 choosing distance learning.
Prasch reported that North has 220 students enrolled, with 11 distance learning, and South has 142 enrolled, also with 11 distance learning.
Superintendent Hogie reported that there will be a School Board Candidate Forum, on October 6, from 7:00 p.m. until 8:45, in the Secondary School Auditorium.
He said the district will be printing and distributing a brochure on the upcoming building levy referendum and public meetings in all three schools.
Hogie said the COVID-19 numbers in Grant County, as well as the other counties that have district students, are holding so far. He added that if a WCA student tests positive for COVID-19, they will be quarantined for 14 days. The administration will seek guidance from the Minnesota Department of Health, regional support team, and public health, on if they should quarantine the rest of the class.
The board passed a motion to increase the pay for substitute teachers from $105 a day to $115, and $52.50 for a half day to $60.
“It is getting hard to find substitute teachers,” Hogie said.