Lawrence’s high school fall sports are set to begin, but district may soon have option to move some to spring

photo by: Mike Yoder/Journal-World File Photo

In this file photo from Monday, June 2, 2014, Lawrence High School football players run through drills during summer camp.

High school sports in Lawrence are slated to begin this fall, a Lawrence school district administrator said Monday.

But the district may soon have the opportunity to move some fall sports seasons to the spring, if it wants to.

During a work session on Monday, the Lawrence school board received an explanation of the Education Unified Command’s new guidance on how to conduct school and activities this fall as the coronavirus pandemic continues. Currently, Douglas County schools are in the green tier of the guidance, which allows for schools to hold in-person classes and all athletics and activities, as long as standard public health precautions are taken, such as social distancing and wearing masks.

After the presentation, Deputy Superintendent Anna Stubblefield told the board the guidance means the district’s athletics are able to begin.

“Right now we’re in green, so all of our sports are a go,” Stubblefield said.

Some local high school sports are scheduled to begin this week, as the Lawrence High School’s junior varsity golf team is traveling to Washburn Rural on Tuesday for a tournament, according to the Sunflower League website.

Stubblefield said the school district plans to continue following the Education Unified Command’s guidance, which is updated weekly on Thursdays. She noted that if the health department’s recommendation of which color-coded tier the county is in changes, the school district would adjust to the change the following Monday.

“So if there is a competition on Friday, we will still do it,” Stubblefield said. “I know (that) has pros and cons, but you have to have a transition time at some point.”

However, Stubblefield told the board that the Kansas State High School Activities Association’s board is expected to meet later this week to consider an alternate calendar for fall sports. The purpose of the alternate plan is to allow school districts that have already canceled some fall sports an opportunity to move them to the spring. As the Journal-World has reported, some LHS and Free State football opponents recently canceled their fall sports because of the ongoing pandemic.

If an alternate schedule plan is approved, Stubblefield said KSHSAA is expected to also give schools a “drop-dead date” to make a decision on whether they will push a sport to the spring. That date has not yet been determined, she said.

photo by: Meeting screenshot/Lawrence school board

Lawrence school board president Kelly Jones speaks about reopening schools and conducting athletics during the board’s meeting on Monday, Aug. 24, 2020.

The board members did not discuss whether they were interested in moving some fall sports, such as “high-risk” sports like football and soccer, to the spring semester. But Board President Kelly Jones said later in the meeting the board intends to allow the district leaders, the local health department and KSHSAA guide decisions related to how and when activities happen.

“There will be moments things may be disrupted from normal and we are asking for you to help us have difficult conversations with our students but also to celebrate the activities and athletics they do get to participate in,” Jones said during the meeting, speaking to the general public.

Additionally, Jones also said the board is not considering changing its plan to start the school year with six weeks of remote learning. She said the board will continue working next month on how to reopen schools after those six weeks, such as moving to in-person or hybrid education options.

In others business, the board approved furloughing most of the district’s food service staff members during the school district’s remote learning period.

Julie Boyle, spokesperson for the school district, said the move would effect 64 staff members, but they would retain their health insurance and other benefits during that period, the Journal-World has reported. Additionally, Human Resources Executive Director David Cunningham said the district will provide an initial “mass filing” of unemployment for the employees to help them receive unemployment benefits.

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