Students, teams call for Wichita school board to reverse decision on high school sports

Published: Aug. 21, 2020 at 3:33 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Football coaches for Wichita Public Schools met with their teams on Friday. They were following up on a decision made Thursday night by the Wichita School Board for middle school and high school students to start the school year online. The decision also means no in-person athletics or activities for the first nine weeks of school.

Northwest Football head coach Steve Martin called Thursday night’s decision unfair. He said his team took all of the precautions they were told to take and practiced all summer with no cases. Now, he and others are calling on the school board to hold a special meeting to reverse their decision.

“I believe my football players, all 108 of them, can go do what they need to do to stay safe. We have changed every aspect of our practice. Our practice has been organized so we can contact trace every one of our kids in every drill. We have done everything and all we are asking is that you reconsider,” said Martin.

A petition now circulating on is calling for students to have their chance to fight and be heard.

“We deserve the chance to fight and be heard with this conflict. Seniors will lose scholarship chances which helps with college and everyone else loses a family. We understand the risk with COVID-19 but that is our chance to take. So this petition shows that everyone is willing to accept the risk,” said the petition.

It is calling for 1,500 signatures and already 1,365 people have signed it.

Martin said he does not plan on stopping Northwest football practices and will scrimmage on Saturday. He said he’s pretty confident the school district will reconsider.

“It’s a family here and in other programs. It’s more than just football. It’s not just a stupid game with a bunch of teenagers playing. The relationships, the life skills, the ability to cope and handle things is why these kids are standing here strong today because they have been taught that through sports,” said Martin.

Wichita Heights High School Head Football Coach Dominick Dingle described the situation as “an emotional roller coaster” for his players and staff. The district gave teams including Heights permission to practice one last time.

For some athletes set to graduate in the spring, competing this fall was more than just a senior season. It was an opportunity to earn a scholarship. With highlights from their senior year already gone, area college coaches said they are ready to work twice as hard to find recruits in Wichita and to offer scholarships.

“How are they going to be recruited? We are going to do our jobs. Our jobs are to scout, our jobs are to prospect, our jobs are to evaluate,” Friends University Head Football Coach Dion Meneley said. “We’re going to work through these high school coaches to make sure we are not missing any kid that has the ability to play.”

Hutchinson Community College Head Football Coach Drew Dallas said his program already has “a good eye” on players targeted from the Class of 2021.

“That will not change because they cannot play,” he said.

Eyewitness News on Friday asked Wichita Public Schools if the district would reevaluate the school board’s decision on canceling fall sports. The district said COVID-19 case numbers would have to first decrease in Sedgwick County.

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