Policy reversal regarding athletics exemption for students who stick with online schooling
Students in Roaring Fork District high schools who opt to remain online to receive course instruction should not be penalized by not being able to participate in sports.
That was the consensus of school board members when the question came up during their Wednesday night videoconference meeting.
The district is preparing to give the option for high school students to transition back to live, in-person classrooms starting Nov. 4. Grades kindergarten through eighth already have that option.
In doing so, the plan was to prohibit students who choose to stay in online classes from taking part in sports or other extracurricular activities, unless they, too, could be done online.
The idea was that, if students were opting to do online classes to avoid potential exposure to COVID-19, it would not make sense for them to take part in sports where the risk is even greater, Superintendent Rob Stein said.
“It was never about punishing anyone,” Stein said, responding to some suggestions by parents that the policy came across that way.
“We have nothing to gain by it, other than that’s what we thought made sense academically,” he said.
The next sports season isn’t until January under the Colorado High School Activities Association’s Covid-modified sports seasons this school year, and is to include boys and girls basketball, hockey, girls swimming and wrestling.
A third season starting in March is to include football, volleyball and boys soccer, and the fourth and final season in late spring would include track and field, baseball and girls soccer.
If families feel comfortable with their kids being on the sports field or in the gym with other students, they should also be fine with them being in school, said Rick Holt, chief academic officer for the district.
“If the goal is to reduce your risk, hanging out with 30 kids who were all just in school does not reduce your risk,” he said. “It’s safer in the building (with distancing protocols) than it is on the soccer field.”
A majority of school board members said that choice should be up to families, not the district, as long as a choice between online and in-person classes is being offered.
Board member Natalie Torres said it would seem conflicting to have a student interact with others in a sports setting, but not in the classroom.
“But I think it’s important to give those students and their families that choice, instead of saying you don’t have that choice,” Torres said.
Board member Maureen Stepp offered a dissenting viewpoint.
“I agree with Rick and Rob that if you’re choosing to stay home because of safety issues, it does not make sense to undo that safety and participate in sports.”
Stein added that, unless public health officials suggest otherwise or CHSAA changes its policies, students taking online courses would be allowed to take part in sports come spring semester.
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Equity, and how that plays into school district communications with primarily Spanish-speaking families, became a topic of discussion as the Roaring Fork Schools Board of Education approved the 2021-22 district budget Wednesday night.