Free State High School suspends football team’s summer workouts after player contracts COVID-19

photo by: Nick Krug/Journal-World File Photo

In this file photo from May 30, 2017, the Free State High School football team practices during summer camp at the school.

The summer conditioning program for Free State High School’s football team has been shut down after a student-athlete tested positive for the coronavirus.

Julie Boyle, a spokeswoman for the Lawrence school district, said the team’s workout program has been suspended through Aug. 6 because the family of a player on the team informed the district on Tuesday of the positive COVID-19 test. Boyle said the student last participated in workouts on Friday.

“We appreciate being notified by the family and hope the student fully recovers,” Boyle said in an email to the Journal-World.

Boyle said Free State staff has notified players’ families about the situation and encouraged players to follow public health guidelines for potential exposure to the virus and to contact their health care provider if experiencing symptoms.

Previously, Boyle said all Lawrence High School and Free State athletes were being screened before workouts and divided into smaller groups for workouts that take place in different areas. She said coaches are enforcing social distancing and that no equipment was being shared. On Wednesday, she said the school district thinks those precautions are effective.

“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.”

The decision to suspend the workouts came the same day as the Kansas State High School Activities Association’s executive board declined to delay the start of the fall sports schedule. All fall sports and activities programs will be allowed to start practices on Aug. 17 and to move forward with their regularly scheduled competitions. However, local school boards will still be able change sports schedules within their own districts.

How KSHSAA’s decision will affect the Lawrence school district is unclear. Boyle did not immediately respond to the Journal-World’s request for comment on KSHSAA’s decision.

The Lawrence school district is scheduled to begin the 2020-2021 school year after Labor Day, about three weeks after fall sports are allowed to begin. Additionally, the first six weeks of school will be through remote learning, the Journal-World has reported.

Kelly Jones, president of the Lawrence school board, said Wednesday that the board did not currently have any planned action related to the fall sports schedule, but that could change. She said the board on Monday, before KSHSAA’s ruling, directed school district administration to provide a report during the board’s next meeting, on Aug. 10, about how it will account for student and staff safety during fall sports.

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