Superintendents Advocate Return of Winter Sports

Superintendents Advocate Return of Winter Sports

Van Buren County Superintendents penned a letter to State leaders including Governor Whitmer, advocating for the return of winter sports.  The letter outlines their position that school sports can safely take place. Letter text as follows:

January 25, 2021 
RE: Return to School Sports 
To: MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel, Governor Gretchen Whitmer, and MDHHS Chief Medical Executive and Chief Deputy Director Dr. Joneigh Khaldun,  

As the superintendents of the public schools in Van Buren County, we are unified in our commitment to assure that the safety of our students remains our top priority. As such, we appreciate that your aim is to preserve the health and safety of Michigan’s citizens, and we want you to know that we are allies in the fight to quash this pandemic. 

We are all acutely aware that the education that schools provide extends beyond academics and classrooms. Student participation in extra-curricular activities plays an essential role in school engagement for a large number of students. Absent these activities, student well-being suffers.  

We understand that with every decision made regarding the placing of restrictions on activities due to COVID, there is a risk-to-benefit analysis done to inform those decisions. We are unified in our belief that such an analysis favors allowing all Michigan schools the option to resume winter sports seasons, under strict protocols, at this time. We ask that you please consider the following:

We believe that our student-athletes can safely participate in “contact” sports, including basketball, competitive cheer, and wrestling if we adhere to strict health and safety protocols, including daily health screenings, mask-wearing, effective daily sanitation protocols, and implementation of social-distancing practices when feasible outside of the competition space.

· We recognize that we can’t eliminate all risks. But as we’ve proven over the past five months, schools are very successful in mitigating risk through implementation of health and safety protocols.

· If we can do so safely, schools must take further steps to assure the social and emotional well-being of students. This has stood out among the biggest challenges encountered by schools and families during the pandemic. Student participation in these activities will make a huge positive difference in their social and emotional health.

· We recognize that attendance of fans at competitions must be strictly limited in order to minimize the risk of COVID spread. We are not opposed to disallowing fans at competitions at this time if it is necessary to allow students to compete.

· If there is data/evidence from states that have moved before us showing that resuming contact sports under strict protocols is not safe, then please share it widely. We have not seen any such evidence.

With the support and guidance of the MHSAA, our schools are ready to safely resume all winter sports activities. And, most importantly, our student-athletes are ready. They are relying on us to take action with their best interest in mind. And they are relying on us to provide for improved levels of engagement and involvement that they so desperately need.
This group is committed to safety, and we fully believe that there is an immediate safe path back to participation and competition for all of our winter sport athletes. We want to work with you to make this happen. Please let us know if there is any information, educational perspective, or other assistance we can provide to help move us forward. 

We respectfully ask that you take the necessary steps to allow all winter sports seasons to proceed immediately. 

Best Regards,

Rick Reo, Superintendent, Paw Paw Public Schools 

Randy Fleenor, Superintendent, Mattawan Consolidated Schools 

Chris Rice, Superintendent, Lawton Community Schools 

Andrew Hubbard, Superintendent, Hartford Public Schools

Jeffrey C. Mills, Superintendent, Van Buren Intermediate School District 

Patrick Creagan, Superintendent, Decatur Public Schools 

Jeffrey C. Rehlander, Superintendent, Gobles Public Schools 

Lynn Johnson, Superintendent, Bangor Public Schools

Gretchen Gendron, Superintendent, Lawrence Public Schools 

Deb Paquette, Superintendent, Bloomingdale Public Schools 

Kevin Schooley, Superintendent, South Haven Public Schools 

Yolanda Brunt, Superintendent, Covert Public Schools


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