Changes made to USD 457 Athletics/Activities District Plan

Meghan Flynn
Garden City Telegram

Changes were approved for the Athletics/Activities District Plan on Dec. 17 at the Garden City Unified School District 457 Board of Education meeting.

The board approved the changes 7-1, with board member Jennifer Standley dissenting.

The changes allow for activities and athletics for grades seven through 12 to follow the District Level baseline for activities and competitions and practices.

Drew Thon, Garden City High School athletic director and assistant principal, said the reasoning behind this was for equity, to allow everybody to be on the same page as far as activities, athletics and practice.

“If a school gets bumped to a Level 5 and the district is still at Level 4, this (change) would still allow activities and athletics to follow the District Level 4 guidelines,” he said.

Another major change to the plan is to allow a maximum number of two spectators per participant to attend events while not exceeding 35% of the total venue capacity of the venue for indoor events in District Plan Level 4.

If the venue cannot support two spectators per participant, it would drop to one per participant, Thon said. If the venue is smaller still and can’t accommodate one spectator per participant, no spectators would be allowed.

The use of the word spectator was deliberate, Thon said. KSHSAA’s guidelines specifically say parent or guardian; however, they changed it to spectator for USD 457 to allow for someone other than a parent or guardian to attend.

“We know a lot of our kids here, not only at Garden City High School, but at our elementary schools and middle schools, a lot of their parents work in the evenings, and the spectator is often a grandma or grandpa or an aunt or uncle,” he said. “We thought it would be better to use the word spectator.”

Participants include players, coaches, student managers, cheer squads, dance teams, pep bands and student journalists.

All spectators are required to wear masks the entire time.

The revised plan also allows the band at District Plan Level 4.

Thon said the band was not included in the proposed revisions the previous week because KSHSAA didn’t have clear guidelines on band and music at the time — now they do.

“We now have new mitigation procedures, bell covers, band-specific masks, better ideas on social distancing that would allow for the band to be able to play at indoor activities such as basketball,” he said.

From Dec. 10 through Jan. 28, 2021, USD 457 has to follow KSHSAA’s guidelines for KSHSAA activities of the two parents or guardians per family. However, if the district continues in Level 4 after Jan. 28, they would transition to the district’s plan.

Another major change to the District Plan is to allow middle-school competitions and events at Level 5. Prior to the change, middle school students could practice, but couldn’t compete.

Also at Level 5, the band is allowed to participate with a reduction to 35% of the band to allow for greater social distancing.

At Level 6, activities and athletics are allowed to practice in groups no larger than 16.

Thon said the number 16 comes as a recommendation from the Finney County Health Department.

“We used to work off a percentage, the Finney County Health Department recommended that we go away from the percentage because some groups are larger than other groups, and got to a specific number, and that's how we came up with the number 16,” he said.

Other changes include:

  • Student and sponsor completion of the USD 457 screener with temperature checks with nurse and principal oversight.
  • Elimination of the gaiter-style masks. Students and coaches must wear traditional masks with ear loops that cover both the nose and mouth without significant gaps.
  • Coaches and sponsors will social distance during practices and no coaches are allowed to scrimmage (sports) or demonstrate with student (wrestling) at Level 5 and Level 6.
  • Coaches and sponsors must complete the National Federation of State High School Association's COVID-19 online course and file the certificate with the building principal or activities director.
  • Coaches and sponsors must complete COVID-19 training from school nurses, the county Health Department and the activities director by Jan. 4.
  • Schools will continue to follow the KSHSAA COVID-19 or sanctioning body recommendations for band, basketball, bowling, cheer, choir, dance, debate, music, orchestra, scholars bowl, speech, swimming, theatre and wrestling.

Students are also required to sign a USD 457 Student Extracurricular Activities COVID-19 Pledge for each activity they are involved in.

Board member Jennifer Standly said she couldn’t be in favor of the requested changes if the pledge was included.

“What they're asking kids to, we're asking for them to be responsible for the community again, on their everyday actions and interactions,” she said. “I think as a board we're representing that we're not going to allow parents to parent anymore and that we're going to take over that parenting in their place, and I don't think that's OK.”

USD 457 Board of Education members and district staff listen during a public comment session at a meeting on Dec. 7 at Garden City High School's auditorium.