Lawrence school district to begin fall sports in August despite pushing back academic start

photo by: Nick Krug/Journal-World File Photo

Lawrence Public Schools district offices, 110 McDonald Drive.

The Lawrence school district is set to begin fall sports in August, despite not starting the academic year until after Labor Day.

Julie Boyle, spokeswoman for the Lawrence school district, said Friday that the school district had decided it would follow the guidance of the Kansas State High School Activities Association and its local athletics conference on how it will begin the fall sports schedule. She said Lawrence middle school activities would follow the same guidance.

Earlier this week, KSHSAA declined to delay the start of the fall sports schedule because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Journal-World reported. Under the KSHSAA plan, high school fall sports will begin as regularly scheduled, with practices starting the week of Aug. 17.

That is about three weeks before the Lawrence school district will begin the academic year. On Monday, the Lawrence school board pushed back the start of the school year to Sept. 8 because of the ongoing pandemic. Additionally, the board decided the school year would begin with at least six weeks of fully remote learning rather than in-person classes.

However, Boyle said the school district would still need to wait and see what the Sunflower League decides for its own schedule. She said the league has a meeting scheduled next week. The Sunflower League is the athletic conference that both Lawrence High School and Free State High School participate in. Currently, LHS’s and Free State’s first football games are scheduled for Sept. 4, which is the Friday before remote classes begin, according to the Sunflower League website.

In preparation for sports to begin, Boyle said the district administration would provide a report to the Lawrence school board on Aug. 10 about safety measures to mitigate the risk of COVID-19. Earlier this week, Board President Kelly Jones said the board did not have any planned action on fall sports, but had directed the district administration to provide the report.

The school district’s protocols are already being put to the test. On Wednesday, the school district said it had suspended the Free State football team’s summer conditioning program after a student-athlete tested positive for the virus. The summer workout program is suspended through Aug. 6.

Boyle said at the time that the school district believed its safety protocols — which include student-athletes being screened before workouts and divided into smaller workout groups that take place in different areas — had helped mitigate the spread of the virus.

“The safety and well-being of students and staff is our top priority,” Boyle said on Wednesday. “We are confident that the safety measures school administrators and coaches have in place for voluntary summer workouts mitigate risk and prevent the spread of the disease.”

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