IHSA acts against updated state guidelines, D215 won’t participate
By Josh Bootsma
LANSING, Ill. (October 29, 2020) – High School District 215 will continue its moratorium on sports due to COVID-19 safety concerns, despite the Illinois High School Association’s (IHSA) allowance for schools to participate in low risk sports as well as basketball, which was designated as a high risk sport on Tuesday, October 27.
Tuesday: State updates winter sports regulations
On Tuesday, Governor Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health released updated guidelines for winter sports, the most notable of which moved basketball from the “medium risk” category to “high risk.” Wrestling and hockey were already considered high risk winter sports.
The category change means basketball is recommended only to be played at Level 1 of the state’s guidance, which says, “only no-contact practices and training are allowed.” Even at medium risk, only intra-squad play was recommended, with no competitive play.
“Being face to face with another person for a basketball or football game puts players at higher risk of getting and spreading the virus. Right now, cases across Illinois and the country are increasing,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike on Tuesday.
Wednesday: IHSA says basketball decision to be made by school districts
IHSA released a statement on Wednesday regarding winter sports, with a special emphasis placed on basketball. The association said their Sport Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC) had set guidelines in place to safely play basketball starting in mid-November, guidelines that included a maximum of 31 games, social distancing on benches, and a mask mandate for all players, coaches, and officials.
The statement from the IHSA Board said, in part:
The high school basketball season was potentially put on hold on October 27, when Governor Pritzker announced that IDPH had changed basketball’s risk level from medium risk to high risk.
After diligent discussion, the [IHSA] Board has made the decision today to follow the recommendation of the IHSA SMAC as it relates to basketball. The Board remains considerate of rising COVID-19 cases in Illinois and understand the importance of adhering to safety guidelines for the good of all citizens. However, the Board has not been presented any causal evidence that rising COVID-19 cases make basketball more dangerous to play by the IDPH or any other health organization nationally or internationally. On the contrary, the IHSA has been looking to bordering states that have sponsored both medium risk and high risk sports in the fall that have noted a low incident rate of COVID-19 spread.
The statement also cited students’ mental health as an important factor in the decision to allow for winter sports to occur.
The statement also said:
We understand that this decision will impact each high school and district differently. Some schools who remain in remote learning may not be able to start winter sports on time, and we feel for those in that situation. However, we have also learned that we cannot continue to look down the road to a season that may never come.
Thursday: District 215 will not play winter sports, including basketball
District 215 parents received the following email on Thursday:
As you are aware, District 215 is not currently running any athletic programs in light of the ongoing pandemic. Yesterday, the IHSA approved winter sports beginning on November 16th, while on Tuesday, Governor Pritzker announced that basketball is now considered a high risk activity. This does not change the District’s current position and our Board of Education has indicated that no winter sports conditioning or practices will be permitted until further notice.
In addition to boys and girls basketball, District 215 also has winter sports teams for boys swimming and diving, cheerleading, dance, and boys and girls bowling—all of which will not play. With the exception of basketball, both state guidelines and IHSA guidelines categorize these sports as “low risk,” and both sets of recommendations allow for the sports to be played as long as certain safety precautions are met.