West Grand weighs decision for football season

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Photo by Mike Wilson
Photo by Mike Wilson

Recent decisions by Colorado Governor Jared Polis, Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE), and the Colorado High School Athletic Association (CHSAA) could permit a fall season football season for high school players and fans.

At Wednesday night’s meeting of the CHSAA Board of Directors, the Board voted “to approve variances from the Governor’s COVID Response Team which will provide member schools with the local option to play field hockey, football and sideline spirit during the fall (Season A) season.”

Just prior to that meeting, the Governor’s office released a statement quoting the Governor. “We have worked closely with CHSAA to approve their request, issue guidelines and assist in creating a process that supports a return to football, field hockey and cheer. If the CHSAA board decides to add these sports to their fall calendars, it will be up to local school districts, administrators and parents to choose what is right for their communities. The state has approved these requests in order to empower all schools to make the choice that is right for them and their student athletes.”

Taken together, the variance and CHSAA decision means that local schools and districts are now permitted to decide whether or not they will participate in a modified fall football season, which would normally run August through early October, or in an early spring season (March, April), that was determined in August as a response to safety concerns in relation to COVID19. Schools cannot participate in both seasons.

“West Grand is leaning towards Season A,” indicates Cori Kassib, West Grand Athletic Director, “but it is dependent on the Western Slope League and 8-Man Football teams on the Western Slope. There are a lot of emails circulating, but CHSAA has not asked any school to officially declare yet.”

Such a change in scheduling could provide some challenges, but Kassib assures that the school has been in communication with Grand County Public Health and has been working on a backup plan. “[We] have been waiting to move forward, if given the opportunity.” She further indicates that the school is prioritizing safety, scheduling, transportation, protocols, and procedures in their discussions and decision-making.

Long-time Head Coach Chris Brown also expressed a readiness to proceed with a fall season. “I was fine with a spring season because it would give schools a chance to see what was happening with COVID and perhaps avoid the challenges of potential quarantines, allowing for a season to be played all the way through. But I know that the kids would sure like to get going, and I’m okay with that.”

He notes the largest consideration in deciding in which season to play as being the decisions of other schools in the Northwest 8-Man League, which also includes Gilpin, Hayden, Plateau Valley, Rangely, Soroco, and Vail Christian. The season normally consists of seven games, six of which would be against fellow league members. “If most of the league wants to play in the fall, we want to play in the fall.”

Coach Brown reports that, to his knowledge, CHSAA was currently considering a season start date of September 28. He further says that, if that is the decided schedule, he would be ready to start a football camp on September 21, a week prior to official practices.

And there are other potential benefits to playing in the fall, while volleyball has still not received a variance, points out Brown. Given the late start to the season, football would be able to practice in the gym, which is normally dedicated to volleyball practices and which space would not be available if the two sports had the same schedule during the snowier months of early spring.

CHSAA has requested a variance for volleyball and other indoor sports, but a variance has still not been approved by the CDPHE.

“We are grateful for the Governor’s office taking this request into consideration,” acknowledges Dr. Darrin Peppard, West Grand Schools Superintendent. “This is just one step, as the CHSAA board will still need to vote to resume season A for some traditional fall sports. We are disappointed, however, that the Governor’s office would not consider indoor sports at this time, specifi
cally volleyball.”

“West Grand School District and High School will continue to advocate for our students and work to provide them with various opportunities to participate in athletic, activity, and extracurricular experiences,” adds High School Principal Liz Bauer. “We know how important these opportunities are for our young men and women as well as for our community. We are excited for the possibility.”

Just like most things impacted by COVID19, guidelines, procedures, and protocols are changing rapidly. More information is expected from both the State and CHSAA in coming days and more work ahead.

“There is still uncertainty about what that may look like as well as official guidance from CHSAA for us to work through,” Bauer reminds.

And Peppard concludes, “We are hopeful that our student athletes will have the opportunity to participate in their activities soon. Like the rest of our community, we are eager to hear the decisions the CHSAA board will make in the coming days.”

To keep updated about West Grand athletics and other school activities, visit wgsd.us or follow the West Grand Booster Club on Facebook.