A divided Blaine County School District Board of Trustees approved a winter athletics competition protocol by a split vote during a regular meeting Tuesday night.
There, both Wood River High School Athletic Director Kevin Stilling and Carey High School Athletic Director Lee Jay Cook presented their own separate winter athletics competition plans.
After a heated and extensive debate between trustees, it was Cook’s proposed plan that won the approval of the board.
Within the new winter athletics competition protocol plan that Cook wrote up, Blaine County schools are allowed to practice while in the “red” COVID-19 risk level, which is the highest on the Harvard Global Health Institute’s key metrics rubric. (The Harvard system is currently the standard in Blaine County and its school district.)
Teams that are in the “orange” level, one notch lower, are allowed to play teams from areas that are also in the “orange.”
Cook’s measure was approved 2-1. The two votes of “yes” came from Trustees Amber Larna and Dan Turner. The one “no” came from Trustee Lara Stone. Board Chairman Keith Roark abstained.
Previously, the Board of Trustees approved a competition protocol that lasted through the fall season. Amid growing concerns with rising numbers of COVID-19 cases throughout Blaine County, they decided to meet again to devise a winter plan.
Both Cook and Stilling wrote their respective versions based on the fall proposal.
“I think we’re doing everything that we can to stay safe,” Cook said in Tuesday night’s meeting. “We’re doing a good job. We don’t necessarily need to backpedal and be stricter than we already are.”
Cook’s plan will be adopted by both Carey and WRHS, with the understanding that both schools will work together to enact the new rules.
The focus of the winter proposal was on the boys and girls basketball season. Carey had already canceled its first week of girls basketball practices. WRHS has already canceled the first two games of the girls basketball season because there haven’t been enough practices to be eligible to compete.
With Cook’s proposal, home events will allow up to 50 spectators (parents/guardians only) during Idaho’s Stage 3 plan. Once Idaho moves past Stage 3, immediate family will be allowed. Visiting team crowds will be prohibited.
Idaho has recently moved back down to Stage 3 in Gov. Brad Little’s four step COVID-19 reopening plan.
However, with the new proposed plan, basketball will resume and begin practicing for the 2020-21 season. WRHS teams could resume practice as early as Friday, Nov. 13, with a projected start date to the season at Dec. 7.
Stilling’s plan, which took a more cautionary approach, had competition levels at the “orange” level within 15 cases per 100,000.
Stilling’s plan also required all student-athletes to wear a mask while practicing if the levels reached “red.”
Wrestling is allowed to begin practicing Monday, Nov. 16; however, because of the physical nature of the sport, the season could be in constant jeopardy. At best, the WRHS team will not go to any big tournaments; they will only play in dual and tri-meets.
“I know we’ve been more conservative than the rest of the state,” Stilling said. “[Wood River’s] plan was short and succinct so we can move on quicker. The board needs to focus on school issues like finances and academics. Athletics isn’t the biggest priority.”