Meade School District adopts new sports COVID protocols

The Meade School Board has adopted new protocols for the winter sports season which will not be tied to COVID categories for the entire school district. Pioneer file photo 

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STURGIS — The Meade School District has adopted a winter sports activity protocol plan.

As part of the original back-to-school plan in the Meade School District, schools would move from the green category to orange or red, depending on numbers of COVID-19 cases and individuals in quarantine. Consequently, the district’s activities would follow suit with more strict protocols depending on the category.

Meade School District Superintendent Don Kirkegaard said Monday that the new plan for activities stands on its own, and has nothing to do with which category specific schools may be in throughout the district.

The activities department will base guidelines and changes to the plan based on specific sports and COVID-19 cases or quarantines within those sports, said Todd palmer, Sturgis Brown High School activities director.

Palmer said the rules will be in place for all home events for SBHS activities, such as basketball and wrestling, throughout the winter season.

He said each activity’s COVID-19 situation will be evaluated in determining the suspension of practices/cancellation of contests, etc. If contests are cancelled, he said every effort will be made to reschedule the contest if there is a date that works for both schools.

“A lot of conversation has been about whether or not winter activities are going to survive just because all of them are inside,” Palmer said.

He admitted that many believe wrestling is the most volatile for the simple fact that diseases can spread quickly among participants because of the sports close contact among participants.

Within the plan, it directs coaches to use the SDHSAA screening questions and take temperatures of all athletes prior to each practice/game/trip.

If an athlete answers yes to a question, they will be sent home and must stay home for 72 hours symptom free or produce a negative COVID-19 test before they can return to their sport.

Palmer said he came up with updated protocols for fans at Meade schools events after taking a look at recommendations on limiting fan attendance from the South Dakota High School Activities Association and other Black Hills Conference schools. He also took into account that there is significant community spread of the coronavirus.

“We want to do everything that can possibly be done to help assure that our athletes have a season,” Palmer told the school board this week. “It’s all about the safety of our students/athletes as well as the fans that attend our activities.”

Palmer said this whole situation is not fun and it’s not fair.

“I’m just trying to do what I think is the best thing. Not everybody is going to agree with me and I understand that, but I want our kids to have a season,” he said.

Board vice-president Cody Weber agreed saying, “My biggest concern is having these kids be able to compete. If this is what it takes to have the sports happen then I’m cool with it.”

Fan attendance will be limited with up to four vouchers for entrance for each athlete/coach/manager participating in an event.

Students from each school and staff (to include all staff/board members) will be allowed in with a school ID.

Here are some of the guidelines:

— All fans in attendance will be required to wear masks at all times. Masks will be available for those who do not have them

Fans will not be allowed in the facility without wearing a mask.

— Fans will be asked to sit in designated areas in the gym depending on the event.

— All members of the teams not in the contest, to include coaches, managers, stats people, subs/on deck athletes, will be required to wear masks.

— All event workers will be required to wear a mask.

— There will be hand sanitizing stations in the bench areas for bench personnel to use.

Palmer said Meade schools will follow the fan policies of all the schools on their schedules.

That information will be shared on the district’s social media platforms as well as the activities page on the website so that all fans know of the protocols both home and away.

The document is not set in stone and can be changed, Palmer and Kirkegaard said.

“If you make a decision in January to change this, amend it, throw it out and do something else, that is your prerogative. It really is a working document,” Kirkegaard said.

The board voted to unanimously to approve the new plan with the provision to call a special board meeting if the district were to go to the red category meaning a school or schools could close because of the number of COVID cases.

The board would then determine if activities would be suspended.

An amendment to not require masks at the events was floated, but was not passed by the board.

“I think we’re making this a lot harder than it needs to be. Let’s go with this plan. We pay Mr. Palmer to do his job, and I think he did it very well. Let’s go with this. We can amend it later,” said board member Lee Spring.

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