Steamboat School Board discusses contradictions of CHSAA variances pertaining to high school sports
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Members of the Steamboat Springs School expressed concern regarding the return of winter sports due to variances that seem to contradict one another during Monday night’s virtual board meeting.
Despite the objections to some specifics, the district plans to continue Season B as planned.
Steamboat Springs High School Athletic Director Luke DeWolfe updated the board on the Colorado High School Activities Association’s recent variance approvals of upcoming Season B sports. While athletes in all sports are required to wear masks during practices, only basketball players wear masks during play. Wrestlers, skiers and ice hockey players are not required to wear masks during competition.
“Based on that guidance from the (Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment) I’m extremely surprised, because it’s completely counter to the guidance we’ve received regarding schools being in person,” said School Board President Kelly Latterman during the meeting. “Reading directly from this report (the most recent report from the governor regarding schools), ‘counties are encouraged to prioritize in-person learning by suspending other extracurricular and recreational activities in order to preserve effective cohorting and minimizing disruptions to in-person learning.’”
Superintendent Brad Meeks was not surprised by the conversation. It’s one that he and DeWolfe have had over the last few weeks. Meeks said it’s certainly challenging to understand the contradictions when hearing the variances for the first time, as board members did Monday.
“We’re not the ones writing the policies, we’re just trying to adhere to them,” Meeks said Tuesday.
The main concern of a few board members was the lack of masks during competition for some sports over others. It was suggested the district take additional measures and require masks for all athletes who compete indoors, but Dr. Brian Harrington, Routt County Public Health’s chief medical officer, said masks may not solve the problem.
When the Public Health Department completes contact tracing, Harrington said mask wearing doesn’t trump other factors, such as maintaining 6 feet of social distance.
“Wrestling in itself is the issue. It’s not wrestling with a mask versus without a mask,” Harrington said during the meeting. “Frankly, being head to head, body to body for a total of six minutes that, to me, throws the mask issue out the door.”
However, if the district were to consider not allowing wrestling, there could be further ramifications. If Steamboat students were told they can’t wrestle here, they may seek to join nearby teams. Practicing with other teams could lead to further spread. Then again, competing against those same nearby teams on their original team could lead to further spread as well.
Boulder County has already implemented such a change, not approving the variance to allow prep wrestling.
Steamboat Springs opted out of football for Season A, electing to play the sport in the spring during Season C. DeWolfe said about 40% of Season A football games in the state were affected by COVID, whether they were rescheduled or canceled.
When there is inevitably a positive case linked to an athletic team or event, Meeks said the district will react just as they do when there are positive cases in the classroom.
“Our plan is we’re going to proceed with Season B, and we’re going to follow the protocols that were set and approved by CDPHE,” Meeks said. “I know Luke has been working with Routt County on it as well, including Dr. Harrington and (Public Health Director Roberta Smith).”
Unless CHSAA announces a change, practices will begin Jan. 18 and competitions Jan. 25. Each sport has specific modifications to scheduling, playoffs and more.
DeWolfe said he’s been fielding many questions regarding spectators, which is still up in the air for Steamboat Springs High School events. No matter if they are allowed, or how many, those not in attendance will be able to stream the events with new cameras purchased by the booster club earlier in the year.
“Maybe for our first couple of games we may not allow any spectators just to make sure we can pull off the games by themselves with the variances in a safe and effective manner,” DeWolfe said during the meeting. “Once we get comfortable with that and have that under our belts, I think we could probably add spectators.”
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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Twenty months after the South Routt School District announced it would close because of a burgeoning coronavirus, COVID-19 is more prevalent in South Routt than ever before.