KCK school board gives OK to wrestling

The Kansas City, Kansas, Board of Education on Tuesday night approved a proposal to let wrestling restart.

The proposal presented by Tammie Romstad, the district’s director of athletics, will allow wrestling practices and competitions to start on Wednesday, Jan. 13.

Voting to allow wrestling to start again were Yolanda Clark, Maxine Drew, Randy Lopez and Stacy Yeager. Voting no on starting wrestling were Janey Humphries, Wanda Brownlee Paige and Valdenia Winn.

“I do not feel comfortable having children wrestling,” Humphries said. “That is too close a contact for me. We want people to wear masks and stay six feet apart.”

Her grandson is a wrestler and she knows how important it is to students, but the safety of the children was more important to her than the wrestling, she said.

Board member Wanda Brownlee Paige also was wrestling with the issue, and noted that only last Friday, a doctor from the Health Department told them that non-contact sports were better than contact sports.

In the proposal, Romstad said the district’s senior leadership team recommended starting wrestling.

Romstad said there had been no positive cases or wrestling sports clusters reported to the state health department from Nov. 16 to Dec. 22, after the state wrestling practices and competitions began.

Also, everybody’s doing it – wrestling has started in all the surrounding schools in Wyandotte County and Johnson County, according to Romstad.

She said that the UG’s sports secondary recommendations would be followed, and those include cohorting participating students, screening, tracing and taking temperatures, no spectators at competitions, limiting participant size to 45 or less and all participants and officials wearing masks.

According to Romstad, about 164 kids were out for sports currently, not counting wrestling numbers. About 85 percent of the students in practices have turned in forms that the district requires, she said.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s cluster web page on Jan. 12 didn’t break sports into individual categories. It listed only 54 sports clusters statewide, with 439 COVID-19 cases statewide, one hospitalization and one death. (See https://www.coronavirus.kdheks.gov/160/COVID-19-in-Kansas)

The UG Health Department reported last week that there were not a lot of outbreaks at the schools, and that it tracked two outbreaks related to soccer teams and one related to a softball team last semester.

Earlier in the Jan. 12 meeting, there was some lobbying from those who wanted to restart wrestling. Eight comments that supported wrestling were received from the public.

Angel Gallardo wrote to the board: “Good evening, my name is Angel Gallardo. I am a senior at J.C. Harmon High School. And I would love to have a wrestling season because wrestling is the only thing that keeps me out of trouble it, helps me relive my stress, and it’s my last year I can wrestle and I really want to show that what I can do my last year I’ve been to state two years and I want to place at state my last year or even win it i want to show other schools at Our district has talent. I truly love the sport of wrestling and I just hope you guys will let us have a season I really did it please let us have a season I’m begging you guys I just want to make our district and my family proud.”

Trinity Escobar wrote this communication to the board: “I really really need this wrestling season, and I know I’m just a student. However though I believe it’s important to state my opinion as it directly affects me. Wrestling gives me reason to wake up, and reason to be motivated. I greatly value Wrestling beyond the sport itself.”

Wrestling was just one of several items approved at the five-hour school board meeting, conducted remotely on Zoom.

The school board also approved a request to loosen the district eligibility policy, which Romstad said would be for about two weeks. Romstad said the eligibility policy was a real concern with the remote learning environment.

Paige said if students were behind in their classwork, they didn’t need to practice, but they should focus on getting caught up with their school work.

Voting in favor were Clark, Drew, Humphries, Lopez and Yeager, and voting against it were Paige and Winn.

Some students to go back to school early

In other action, the school board approved a district proposal 6-1 to allow certain groups of students to come back to school in person starting the week of Feb. 22. Paige voted no, saying more plans need to be put in writing and more questions answered before they do anything.

Students would attend four days a week. An estimated maximum of 1,800 students would attend, according to Dr. Alicia Miguel, superintendent.

According to district officials, it is an effort to address the situation of students who have fallen behind during the remote learning period. There is a national trend of student academic decline during the pandemic, according to officials. District officials said about 300 elementary students, kindergarten through fifth grade, have had no internet connectivity at all during these months.

The students who could return would include students in kindergarten through fifth grade who were unable to connect to remote learning; those students who haven’t been showing up from the start of the school year through Dec. 18; and those students who were at high risk of not progressing, according to officials.

Also in the group are English as a Second Language students in kindergarten through fifth grade, including those less than one year in the country.

Other groups that may return early are students in kindergarten through fifth grade with high individualized education plan minutes, including those who spend a lot of their day in special education; those elementary students in foster care; elementary students who face homelessness; and high school seniors who could be at risk of not graduating on time.

Selected staff members would have to return Feb. 8 for this group.

The Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools are in remote learning currently, with plans for all students to start hybrid learning in April; and a remote learning option was to be available then, also.

The Unified Government Health Department last week loosened the restrictions on schools in Wyandotte County, allowing older students to change classrooms and younger students to sit in pods. An entire classroom will not have to be quarantined – only those directly in front, back and at the sides of a positive student.

At the Jan. 8 meeting with the KCK school board, Dr. Erin Corriveau, deputy medical officer for Wyandotte County, did not recommend wrestling, as it is a sport where athletes come into close contact for a length of time. She recommended other sports such as tennis or track and field, where there is no close contact over an extended period of time.

After some school districts in Wyandotte County went ahead and played team sports or the students played club sports, the Health Department loosened its sports requirements on Nov. 13 and made the requirements into recommendations. (See https://alpha.wycokck.org/files/assets/public/health/documents/covid/11132020-localhealthofficersportsorderrescinded.pdf.) That earlier Aug. 13 order had prohibited some contact sports in Wyandotte County.

Mask orders, gathering limitations and social distancing are still in effect in Wyandotte County. Violations of the health orders are misdemeanors and can result in a fine of up to $500 and 30 days in jail. That penalty provision is still in place in the orders, and was mentioned in the new Jan. 4 health order relaxing the requirements on schools. (See https://alpha.wycokck.org/files/assets/public/health/documents/covid/localhealthofficerschoolorder01042021.pdf)

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