A day removed from the KSHSAA calling off the rest of the state basketball tournaments in response to the spread of the coronavirus, high schools around the state are now waiting to learn the fate of spring sports seasons.
The association released a statement on Friday that there were no alterations being made to spring sports, but that it would continue to monitor the situation.
“The KSHSAA has made no alterations to the spring sports season at this time. Local school leaders are empowered to make the best decisions for their respective student-athletes and school communities for regular season athletic practices and competitions,” the statement read.
KSHSAA Executive Director Bill Faflick reiterated to the Sun that schools should listen to state and local health departments for guidance regarding spring sports.
“In terms of spring sports, the regular season belongs to the schools,” Faflick said. “Their competitions during the regular seasons are certainly subject to local board of education, superintendent and principal discretion. They’re making the decisions now on a geographic basis.”
At the time of publication, Shawnee, Riley and Douglas counties had canceled school for at least two weeks. The Catholic School Activity League also suspended practices until March 23 for Bishop Carroll and Kapaun Mt. Carmel high schools.
Pittsburg was the first SEK League school to issue a cancellation as USD 250 suspended all extracurricular activities until further notice. Pittsburg Athletic Director Jeff Staley informed all league ADs in an email.
Parsons still held baseball and softball practices on Friday. Parsons is scheduled to begin its season on Thursday.
“Our chain of command will keep us posted,” Parsons baseball head coach Gerald Beardmore said. “At the end of the day, there’s not much we can do about it. We’ll accept any decisions and make sure the kids are taken care of.”
USD 503 Superintendent Lori Ray said that superintendents around the state are having daily conference calls with the Kansas State Department of Education and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to receive continued updates.
“There’s no point in being frustrated in a situation like this,” Ray said. “Pandemic planning is not something you learn. We’ll have to refer to our medical experts.”
Labette County Superintendent John Wyrick said USD 506 currently has no plans to cancel spring sports.
“If they tell us that we need to re-consider having events and gatherings, we’ll take that under advisement and make the best decision for our kids,” Wyrick said. “At this point, we have no plans to suspend or suspend any spring events. That includes sports, prom, theater, all that. With that being said, it’s prudent that everybody understands that plans are fluid. It can change on a day-to-day basis and hour-to-hour.”
“We’ve got to see where this goes from here,” Labette County Principal Shane Holtzman added. “We’re not trying to dismiss this at all. When I watched the events unfold over the last two days, I understand why the NBA, NHL and NCAA did what they did. Those are global, nationwide entities. The SEK League is confined to a few counties. So I don’t think we can apply the same sense of urgency.”
Faflick said KSHSAA is still deliberating the future of its spring sports championships. The NCAA announced on Thursday that all winter and spring sports championships for the rest of the year were canceled.
“We know we have a little bit of time before the postseason needs to be clarified,” Faflick said. “Right now, we’ll do everything in our power to have our championship activities. We also recognize the importance of keeping things in perspective, maintain safety for kids and healthy communities. There’s lot of ground before our first spring sports championship.
“We have talked about how we get enough regular season played to ensure a postseason. Our activities programs don’t exist solely for the purposes of participating in a state championship. We also recognize that’s the goal for every single team and every single participant. We want those championships to exist. I hope nobody will cancel their sports season just because there’s not a championship.”
Faflick said he expects more clarity after the KSHSAA executive board meets on March 25-26.
“We will not make any more decisions or establish a timeline until our executive board meets on March 25-26,” Faflick said. “Ultimately, they’re responsible for decisions relative to postseason. Staff will have some recommendations in place for them to consider, including a timeline.”
Schools around the region are essentially all waiting for directives from health departments and KSHSAA.
“We had some discussions yesterday,” Chetopa Athletic Director Jaunc Bradshaw said. “We’re just monitoring the situation just about like everybody else. We’re waiting to see what KSHSAA says and what all the health departments say before we make a decision.”
On Thursday night, shortly after the first death in Kansas caused by COVID-19, Gov. Laura Kelly declared a state of emergency. That declaration played a significant role in the KSHSAA’s decision to cancel the rest of the basketball state tournaments.
According to a report from KAKE, Kansas Secretary of Health Dr. Lee Norman recommends against gatherings larger than 100 people. The KDHE reported on Friday that there six confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the state.
“We’re going to approach it cautiously but not panic,” USD 503 Assistant Superintendent Linda Proehl said. “We’re waiting on KSHSAA’s direction, the Kansas State Department of Education’s direction and what the Labette County Health Department will be recommending. But no decisions at this time have been made.”