Prairie du Chien School Board vote, 4-3, to have fall sports

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By Ted Pennekamp

 

The Prairie du Chien School Board voted 4-3 at its meeting Monday night to have all five of its sports this fall. Fall sports include football, boys soccer, girls golf, boys and girls cross country and volleyball. Board members Cassie Hubanks, Nick Gilberts and Michael Higgins voted against having fall sports this fall.

The WIAA has ruled that fall sports can be held either in the fall or in the spring, thus leaving the tough decision up to local school boards. Due to the pandemic, school districts throughout the state are tackling the issue of how or when to hold fall sports.

There were about 50 people at the school board meeting Monday night, including several student-athletes.

Prairie du Chien High School Football Coach Cory Koenig was the first to speak to the board regarding fall sports. Koenig has been a teacher at Prairie du Chien for 20 years.

Koenig spoke in favor of having sports this fall. He cited a study by the University of Wisconsin Health Department that says not having sports takes a toll on adolescents regarding anxiety and depression. He also said there’s a low percentage of COVID-19 positives in the county and state.

“The parents support it (fall sports), it’s what the kids want and it’s what the kids need,” said Koenig, who noted there are ways to play and still have a safe season. “We need to get back to normal.”

Many football players have purchased helmets with face shields.

Terry Quick of the Prairie du Chien Football Club also was in favor of having sports in the fall. Quick noted that Prairie du Chien had teams in the Babe Ruth baseball league and in Little League this summer with no positive COVID tests.

“The COVID protocol worked,” said Quick. “Also, there’s no guarantee of a spring season.”

Lara Czajkowski-Higgins, who was approved as the new boys soccer coach earlier in the meeting, was against having sports in the fall. Czajkowski-Higgins said she is anxious to have the athletes return but the district needs to be balanced regarding the physical safety of the athletes, coaches, officials and fans. Czajkowski-Higgins said she consulted with Crawford County Nurse Cindy Riniker and said she feels soccer would be unsafe.

“The spring season is not a perfect solution, but it’s a good one,” said Czajkowski-Higgins. “All the coaches want sports moved to the spring except the football coaches.”

Czajkowski-Higgins could not attend the meeting, but her statement was read to the board and the audience.

Koenig said the WIAA has a return-to-play plan, and the football team will be following the guidelines. Players have been bringing their own water bottles. Also, taking players’ temperatures before the practices has been relatively easy. In addition, sanitation wipes will be used in order to wipe pads and other football equipment. The best and safest ways to use locker rooms will also be discussed.

Board President Lonnie Achenbach said there is no wrong or right answer and made a motion to have the coaches make the decisions on whether their sports will be played in the fall or spring.

Superintendent and Athletic Director Andy Banasik said his recommendation would be to move fall sports to the spring for safety reasons. He said there are approximately 180 students involved in high school sports including cheerleaders and dance teams.

“I don’t know if I can keep my staff safe,” said Banasik. 

Cross Country Coach Mike Liddell said the WIAA made a lousy ruling that passed the pressure on to each school board to make a decision about fall sports. He also said passing that pressure to individual coaches to make a decision is a “lousy thing.” 

Koenig agreed with Liddell that the WIAA, in effect, chickened out in passing the decision to each school board in the state. Every school board will likely endure quite a bit of criticism no matter what decision they make about fall sports.

Board member Michael Higgins said Prairie du Chien should either play all sports in the fall or in the spring. Higgins said he was in favor of moving the fall sports to the spring.

Board member Duane Rogers made an amendment to Achenbach’s motion, which Achenbach agreed to. Rogers said the motion should be to have all sports in the fall.

The vote was taken and the motion passed 4-3.

Banasik said the Southwest Wisconsin Conference will meet on Wednesday, Aug. 26, and he will make a recommendation to the board after the meeting regarding how many, if any, spectators will be allowed at the fall sports events. It is also unknown if photographers or other media will be allowed along the sidelines. Girls golf shouldn’t be a problem, said Banasik, because the fans are spread out and generally there aren’t big crowds. Football, however, with two full teams of about 50 players each, officials and coaches, might not be able to have any fans present.

Banasik also said that Prairie du Chien has a video system which can play the games live for fans sitting at home.

In other business, the board made changes to various sections of its COVID-19 handbook including suspending musical and theater productions until further notice.

High School Band Director Matt Lenz said he and the district are researching options for band and choir practices and possible performances.

In further business, the board:

•approved of hiring more than three people as part-time certified nursing assistants who will work a total of 40 hours per week in each school building. There are five applicants for the positions so far. The total cost for the positions is $64,800 plus $9,000 in benefits.

•approved of switching to a much better air filtration system in the school buildings for $24,000 per year. The current system costs $8,000 per year but is not nearly as good at filtering germs, viruses and the like.

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