Kansas City, Kansas, Public School students who were hoping to play fall sports may get to play those sports next spring.
In a two-hour internet special meeting on Friday afternoon, the KCK school board voted unanimously to accept the Kansas State High School Activities Association proposal to participate in fall sports in the spring, if health conditions allow.
The district would have to meet gating criteria before any sports could take place. Those criteria include information such as the community’s positivity rate and other health information. That rate is the number of positive COVID-19 tests divided by the number of total tests. Currently, the number is over 17 percent in Wyandotte County, which is in the “red zone.”
On Sept. 8, the school board voted to allow student athletes to participate in conditioning or workouts beginning Sept. 14. That date has now been pushed back to Sept. 21 after a meeting with principals, district officials said at the board meeting.
The board’s 7-0 vote for the KSHSAA plan is not a guarantee that they will play sports, Board President Randy Lopez said at the meeting. The decision to play sports will be based on conditions closer to that time, he said. Today’s vote is giving the students an opportunity, he said.
The KCK school board had suspended fall sports and some activities because of the risk of COVID-19. The Unified Government Health Department issued an order Aug. 13 restricting fall sports in Wyandotte County and prohibiting football, volleyball, soccer and marching band events in Wyandotte County. The action was met with some student protests.
After some other local schools and clubs decided to go out of the county to play sports in other counties, the Health Department then issued more guidance on fall sports, on Sept. 4. Those who participate in sports outside of the county were asked to stay in their same “cohorts” while they are at school under the new guidelines.
Tammie Romstad, the district’s director of athletics, said that KSHSAA had offered an option of playing in the spring to schools that could not play sports in the fall. The option also would apply to schools that started sports in the fall but were unable to complete the season, she said.
Fall sports teams that are in Class 5A and 6A could compete in one class together in the spring, she said. The KSHSAA has made up a schedule that will be used in the spring if there are 50 percent or more of the schools that couldn’t compete in the fall.
If there are less than 50 percent, the district would make up its own schedule under the KSHSAA rules, she said. That could include a shortened season of perhaps five games where district schools play each other.
The school board also voted 5-2 to approve a proposal that would use the state gating criteria.
According to the proposal that was presented Sept. 8 by the district athletic director, and was discussed Sept. 11, a COVID-19 response team would evaluate the gating criteria, making a decision on Fridays for the next week, based on the previous two weeks.
The gating criteria would determine the start of the winter and spring sports, with winter sports practices scheduled to start Nov. 16, according to the proposal.
The members of the COVID-19 response team would be the district’s chief of staff, a medical specialist, a district nurse and the athletic director, according to the proposal.
Voting against the proposal were board members Dr. Valdenia Winn and Wanda Brownlee Paige.
“I’m concerned that the responsibility is not in the right hands, and the board should not be delegating, giving away its authority, so I vote no,” Dr. Winn said.
The passage of the gating criteria item takes the authority away from the school board and places it with school district personnel. Dr. Winn said the board and district have the liability for whatever happens as a result of the actions, and the committee does not.
According to Dr. Alicia Miguel, interim superintendent, the COVID-19 response team would be able to meet every Friday to discuss the gating criteria, while the school board typically does not meet every Friday. It meets every two weeks on Tuesday evenings, with special meetings added if needed.
When asked, the school board’s attorney said during the meeting that a school district committee would not be subject to the Kansas Open Meetings Act. The meetings would not be public meetings, according to the attorney. If they were school board meetings, or board committees, they would be open to the public, according to the attorney.
Janey Humphries, a board member, proposed a motion that would have at least one board member represented on the district’s COVID-19 response team, and that a report be made to the school board members after the end of each of the team’s meetings.
The vote was 4-3 to add a board member and to have a report to the board. Voting in favor were Yolanda Clark, Janey Humphries, Wanda Brownlee Paige and Dr. Valdenia Winn, and voting against it were Maxine Drew, Dr. Stacey Yeager and Randy Lopez.
Romstad also discussed some plans to help students with a “showcase” presentation that they can use to show college coaches. The showcase presentation would include information about the students’ athleticism and skills such as speed and strength. It might include some film clips from their previous years on the team. The showcase might be worked on during the conditioning sessions.
In other action, the school board also approved an update to board policies on bullying, intimidation and retaliation. The policies are online on the Sept. 11 meeting agenda at https://go.boarddocs.com/ks/kckps/Board.nsf/vpublic?open, items 2A and 2B.