Chequamegon School District Administrator Mark Weddig announced on Nov. 13 the start of the winter sports season will begin as scheduled, although all athletic competitions, other than gymnastics, have been suspended through Jan. 1, 2021. Practices, however, will continue under strict safety guidelines, according to the announcement.
Weddig said the school district has been working with Price County Health and Human Services, coaches, and families to find a way to move forward with winter sports in the safest and most competitive manner possible. Due to the extremely high coronavirus case activity (now deemed “critical'' by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services) in Price County and the region, Weddig said it was important to take a close look at the safety of each sport in terms of practice and competition.
Approval of the final plan took place at a special school board meeting on Nov. 12, where representatives from each sport made a presentation, Weddig shared the process and rationale for the district’s decision, and board members shared their perspectives.
“We simply could not find a procedure to conduct close-contact competitions safely, and I did not feel it would be responsible for the safety of our communities to have students traveling back and forth to other communities when the pandemic is out of control throughout the region,” Weddig said. “Our healthcare workers are overwhelmed at this time, and I cannot justify making their burden greater.”
When asked why other districts in the county are moving forward with winter sports, given the same recommendation from county health officials, Weddig said, “I cannot answer for them; my responsibility is to the health and safety of the Chequamegon students, families, and communities. The district is closely connected to our communities, and I feel a deep responsibility to that role.”
The start of the winter sports season will look vastly different than it has in the past. Teams will work in small groups called pods and limit the maximum size to 10-12 participants at a time. Procedures for arrival and departure for practices, disinfecting protocols, and other guidelines will be in place. Student-athletes will wear masks at all times. The procedures are similar to those that have allowed the Chequamegon School District to stay open so far this year, Weddig said.
“This decision will be evaluated every two weeks, beginning in December. Hopefully, we will be able to eventually resume interscholastic competitions as planned for the duration of the winter season. For the time being, I believe it is a fair compromise to allow students to be physically active with their friends, playing the sports they love, even if it is only in a practice setting. I also hope and pray that we will continue to be able to keep our schools safe and open, which is our first priority,” Weddig said.