Lawrence superintendent recommends winter athletics, activities to continue amid pandemic
photo by: Meeting screenshot/Lawrence school board
Lawrence school district Superintendent Anthony Lewis is recommending that the school district’s winter athletic and activity programs continue this school year, despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
During the school board’s regular meeting on Monday, Lewis said he felt comfortable that the teachers and students who participate in these programs will follow the district’s safety guidelines established to mitigate the spread of the virus.
“Our coaches and teachers do a great job in reinforcing safety measures, and I know that our student-athletes, musicians, actors and actresses take them seriously — and perhaps follow them more closely — because they want to continue to participate,” Lewis said.
According to guidelines posted online, some of the precautions for winter athletics include student-athletes wearing masks and physically distancing when not involved in “live play” and limiting the length of practices, among several other protocols.
Meanwhile, high school and middle school band members would be required to wear masks at all times while in their band rooms. Additionally, the district plans to provide all of the band members with special masks that can accommodate the use of instruments with mouthpieces.
Lewis said the protocols can be found on the district’s website, usd497.org/TogetherAgain.
Under Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health’s virus guidance to schools, basketball, wrestling, band and choir are all considered “high risk,” which means they involve close and sustained contact between participants and pose a high probability that “respiratory particles” will transmit among them.
During the fall sports season, the Lawrence school district allowed other high risk sports to continue, particularly football and soccer, despite the health department’s guidance calling for the prohibition of those competitions for all but one week of the fall semester. But winter sports and activities may pose greater risks of virus spread because they are conducted indoors.
However, Lewis said athletics and activities are important for students because they can help improve their social and emotional well-being.
“These opportunities often are what connects many of our students to their schools,” Lewis said.
In other business, the board heard a budget report from finance director Kathy Johnson, who explained that the district expects to experience a $1 million state funding shortfall this school year because of a recent enrollment drop.
Johnson said the district is looking for ways to make cuts to its current budget to address the shortfall.
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