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Parents, coaches, athletes heard: Wichita school board clears fall sports to happen

Published: Sep. 1, 2020 at 4:11 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - The Wichita School Board approved fall sports to continue for Wichita Public Schools, 6-1. Superintendent Dr. Alicia Thompson made a presentation based on the feedback from the COVID-19 Advisory Committee at Monday night’s school board meeting.

Under the proposed concept, students who participate in higher and moderate risk sports would have to complete their learning on MySchoolRemote for the entire season and two weeks after. Currently, all 6th-12th graders will start off the first nine weeks of school on MySchoolRemote.

Higher risk sports include wrestling, football, competitive cheer and dance. Moderate risk sports include basketball, volleyball, baseball or softball, soccer, tennis, swimming relay and track/jump events. Nov. 6,

Under the plan, spectators would not be allowed for regular season fall sports, streaming and online viewing would be encouraged.

For those activities defined as lower risk, such as individual running events, sideline cheer, cross country or band, students would be allowed to participate in activities following appropriate WPS plan guidelines as well as KSHSAA participation guidelines. They would participate with no restrictions.

Parents and students 18 years and older would be asked to sign a waiver to acknowledge the benefits and risks of participating in activities during COVID.

“Overcoming the concern that this concept prioritizes athletics over academics, I would suggest, as the second bullet indicates, that all student participants in athletics or activities will be required to achieve academic expectations in order to participate,” said Dr. Thompson.

Students would also have the opportunity for tutoring or other intervention strategies to help focus on their success.

Ultimately, with the 6-1 vote, district leaders say the board listened to the parents’ and the students’ demands throughout the district. While at least initially, fall-sports athletes in the Wichita school district won’t play in front of crowds, the school board’s reversed decision Tuesday brought excitement and even some tears of joy and pride.

After weeks of bombarding school board members with emails, Wichita Public Schools student-athletes and their families have been heard. With the vote to reinstall fall sports in the district, those who protested the board’s initial decision say their work has paid off.

Wichita Northwest High School Wrestling Coach Dave Nigg and his wife, Terri Nigg, sat in lawn chairs in front of Wichita North High School -- the sight of Tuesday’s school board meeting -- until a decision was announced. Nigg has worked for the school district for more the 40 years. He was emotional when talking about how hard student-athletes have worked to win back their seasons.

“All the seniors, they’ve spent four and five years getting ready for this,” Dave Nigg said. “They’d never recover (had the season not happened for Wichita public schools). Our athletes would go out of (the) district.”

A group of volleyball players who spoke with Eyewitness News following the school board’s decision to reinstate fall sports said they planned to get back into the gym for practice Wednesday afternoon, excited for the season to start.

The fate of fall activities for Wichita Public Schools students could be decided Monday night by the Board of Education. The meeting is set to start at 6 p.m. Board members will hear recommendations from the district’s COVID-19 Advisory Committee which met Monday night to go over metrics and coronavirus numbers in Sedgwick County.

Hundreds of student-athletes plan to be outside North High School pleading for the board members to let them play. The decision could impact high school students for a lifetime.

“It’s heartbreaking to know that some of my friends will stay in the streets not doing the right thing just because they won’t get to play football,” said Northwest High School senior, Kaleb Coleman.

Students like South High School senior Caden Morris said playing sports is like a home away from home.

“You know, it keeps a lot of people out of trouble. Like gang violence, you know, all that. Selling drugs. It keeps them away from that,” said Morris.

They’re not alone. Coaches and parents are also asking for the chance to move forward.

“There is something that can be done, we feel, safely. And all we’re asking for is a chance,” said South High School head football coach, Russ Wells.

Coleman’s mom, Erica Miner agrees.

“I hope they reconsider, I hope they let them play. Every city around us is playing, everybody but Wichita USD 259. It’s just not fair to the kids,” Miner said.

The student-athletes say they’re just looking forward to a season.

“Just let us play. Everybody else is playing, why can’t we?” Coleman asked.

“I’m hoping that we can still have this season,” said Morris. “A lot of people are depending on it.”

The meeting starts at 6 p.m. Watch live coverage on KWCH.com and the KWCH 12 app.

Copyright 2020 KWCH. All rights reserved.

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