Washington Gov. Jay Inslee ordered all public and private schools in Washington closed beginning Tuesday through April 24 due to the public health situation, which means all high school sports, practices and other activities statewide are suspended until further notice.
Greater Spokane League/District 8 Director Herb Rotchford addressed how that decision impacts high school sports in Eastern Washington.
The Spokesman-Review: Does it help that the governor closed schools for that time period, taking the decision out of the school districts’ hands, so there’s one blanket policy in the state?
Rotchford: Well, that’s the type of leadership that we need to have, you know. We’re in a situation where we can’t have ambivalence, or we can’t have confusion, we need clear decisive direction. And I think that’s what Gov. Inslee has provided.
S-R: Does District 8, or individual school districts, or the other area leagues have any kind of contingency built into their charters for situations like this?
HR: The protocol is that the school districts will always make these kinds of decisions, not the league, independent of the school districts. So it’s not any different than, say, inclement weather. School districts make the decision whether to keep schools in session or shut down. And then the league will abide by whatever decision that the school districts make.
S-R: Is it helpful that the district is comprised of just four school districts in close proximity to each other?
HR: It makes the decision-making, and the response to those decisions, much more timely than if you are a remote school district or a league that’s made up of, you know, many school districts like what you find on the west side. And I just talked with the schools in the Mid-Columbia Conference, and they have suspended all athletics and activities until further notice as well.
S-R: These are uncharted waters for all of us, but are closing the schools and suspending athletic activities necessary steps considering the public health situation that we’re in right now?
HR: Yeah, no doubt about that. It’s such a dynamic and rapidly moving event that we really have to operate from extreme caution. That’s what we intend to do, and I think that’s what we are demonstrating right now. And, you know, we won’t make any further decisions until we get absolute direction from the Department of Health, and from the governor’s office, OSPI, all of the statewide decision makers.
S-R: It’s an unfortunate circumstance with student-athletes losing playing time, but what’s the message you want to get out about high school sports being suspended?
HR: In protecting the safety of the kids, we ultimately also help protect the safety of the most vulnerable populations. And, you know, that’s the elderly. You know, the seniors who have underlying conditions. Because if we don’t protect the kids, the health of the kids, you know it ultimately is going to make it more of an issue, and become more exaggerated, or an exasperated situation with seniors. So, you know, it’s all connected. And certainly our paramount responsibility and concern is with our kids, our high school athletes, but we also need to remember that in protecting them, we also protect the seniors who are the most vulnerable.
S-R: Are there any contingencies or plans in place at this point about trying to salvage the spring sports season, or rescheduling? How do you think that might end up looking?
HR: Well, we’ll have those discussions. And even our meetings are going to be done remotely. Just again, erring on the side of safety for everyone involved. So, we’ll still conduct league meetings, but it’ll be done in a remote fashion either through Zoom, conference call, email or a combination of the three. But we will certainly put contingency plans in place so that when and if we get clearance, and the situation changes so that the safety aspect of it is satisfactory, then we’ll go ahead and implement at that time. But, in terms of contingency plans, it’s so much predicated on how this evolves, how long it’s going to be – because it’s going to get worse before it gets better. And we just don’t know what that timeline is.
S-R: Is there anything else that you think is particularly important?
HR: Again, this is unprecedented. It’s unprecedented territory. And, you know, the people who are working behind the scenes – and that’s the high school athletic administrators, high school principals – they’re just doing a remarkable job in terms of taking care of their kids, and really doing their due diligence and attention. And I think that they will continue, obviously, to do that.