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Wichita school board not yet shutting door on school activities this fall

Published: Aug. 23, 2020 at 10:22 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Update 9 p.m. Monday, Aug. 24, 2020: As students, parents and coaches make their voices heard concerning the status of fall sports, the Wichita Public Schools Board of Education on Monday night furthered the discussion.

The school board at its Monday night meeting asked an advisory team to discuss starting school activities. That discussion could happen this week.

In a 6-1 vote, the board approved a motion the committee review the gating criteria that monitors the spread of COVID-19 and corresponding safety level for activities, as any information (including mental health information). In the same motion, the board moved not to require a minimum of five weeks for activities to start once its deemed safe for them to move forward.

Wichita Public Schools BOE President Sheril Logan said COVID-19 case numbers in Sedgwick County need to remain under consideration with decisions. Current data shows more than 10 percent of COVID-19 tests in the county coming back positive. If that percent-positive number dips below 10 percent, Logan said the board could consider reinstating non-contact sports like cross country.

The board wouldn’t consider reinstating football for Wichita Public Schools until the percent of positive COVID-19 tests in Sedgwick County dips below 5 percent. One concern expressed Monday night is that Sedgwick County doesn’t have the capacity to test all student athletes in Wichita Public Schools.

The advisory committee likely will meet this week, but the final decision regarding the status of fall sports for the Wichita school district is up to the school board.

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Update 5 p.m. Monday, Aug. 24, 2020: Student athletes, parents and coaches in the Wichita school district Monday afternoon made their voices heard ahead of the Wichita Public Schools Board of Education meeting.

The gathering Monday followed a weekend demonstration that drew hundreds of parents and students in the district, protesting the board’s vote last week to cancel sports and activities for at least the first nine weeks of school in which students at the middle and high-school levels will learn remotely.

Among the topics expected to come up at Monday night’s board meeting is the issue concerning fall sports and activities.

The Wichita Public Schools BOE meeting is set for 6 p.m. You can watch that meeting live in the link below:

WATCH LIVE: USD 259 Board of Education meets after decision to cancel fall sports, activities in the district.

Reaction from last Thursday’s vote included a plea from Wichita Northwest Head Football Coach Steve Martin.

“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 Change.org 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.

As of late Monday afternoon, the online petition was nearing its goal of 5,000 signatures.

Sunday, Aug. 23, 2020:

Hundreds of parents and students from the Wichita School District, and surrounding districts, gathered at Northwest High School Sunday night to protest the school board’s decision to cancel fall sports and activities for nine weeks.

"My message to the school board is to give them a chance, let them play," said Northwest parent Kathy Fisher. "Athletes have been out there, they have been training, they have been following all the guidelines."

Parents, students and coaches from surrounding districts that have not canceled fall sports and activities, like Maize, Andover, Goddard, Valley Center and Derby were also in attendance showing their support.

"Coaches and the administrations have done everything they have been asked to," said Maize parent Kim Hadley. "You can't take this away from them now."

The Wichita School Board has a meeting Monday, families say they plan to protest again at North High School.

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