LAYTON — The COVID-19 pandemic situation changes virtually every hour, which complicates critical decision-making for state and local leaders.
It’s because of this situation that the Utah High School Activities Association is in a wait-and-see mode regarding the tentative spring sports restart date of May 1.
Say that spring sports resume on May 1. What does that do to sports teams at Layton Christian Academy, whose mostly international student population has been flying home en masse?
School administrator Greg Miller was very frank in his assessment of the situation.
“With the sports, we haven’t really worried about it too much because our whole focus has been on taking care of the kids that are here. There’s some kids that may still fly home if they can find a flight or if their parents can find them a flight,” Miller said.
Nearly half the school’s K-12 enrollment is international students, according to Miller.
Around 80 international students in grades K-12 are still on campus, down from 140 before students started flying back home due to the pandemic, Miller said Monday.
According to athletic director Jared Miller, the Eagles’ teams will look different if play resumes on May 1, but the school is taking the situation day-by-day and will cross that bridge when or if it gets there.
LCA fields baseball, boys soccer, track and field, girls golf and boys tennis in the spring.
Last year’s boys soccer team, which won the 2A state championship, featured players from Brazil, Spain, Venezuela, Germany, The Netherlands, South Korea and the United States. The exodus of students has hit that team particularly hard.
According to boys soccer head coach Chris Tatro, the Eagles have lost half their varsity team. Most of the players who have gone back home are from Brazil, he said.
Tatro says the team has some talented backups he’d lean on if the season restarts and the Eagles will do the best they can with the players they have. Tatro and Jared Miller both think LCA’s sports teams will still be competitive if sports do resume.
LCA’s boys soccer team would face several obstacles to getting a restructured team back on the field, most notably the fact that more players could fly home between now and May 1.
That’s all without saying there’s a distinct possibility that students who’ve flown back to their home countries are going to stay home no matter what.
PUTTING UTAH INTO CONTEXT
The only indication of the UHSAA’s thinking is that it seems to follow the public school soft closure timeline.
On March 23, Gov. Gary Herbert announced the school’s public schools would remain in soft closure until at least May 1. The UHSAA followed with an announcement the next day extending its spring sports suspension to at least May 1.
Similar moves have played out across the country. On April 2, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the state’s schools would remain closed for the rest of the academic year in an effort to mitigate the virus’s spread. The next day, spring sports were canceled.
On April 6, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee closed schools for the rest of the academic year and within hours, spring sports were canceled.
Idaho, meanwhile, has a tentative school restart date of April 20 and the Idaho High School Activities Association has a similar tentative restart date for spring sports.
According to the Idaho Statesman, there are several logistical hurdles and what-ifs that state, school and IHSAA leaders are pondering with regards to potentially restarting the season.
In Iowa, a state with a very similar population to Utah, plans are in place for a tentative spring sports restart on April 30, according to the Des Moines Register.
However, each state’s COVID-19 case counts create different scenarios for state leaders, making it hard to draw conclusions about whether spring sports in Utah will resume.
According to a New York Times database on Tuesday, California has experienced 16,329 confirmed cases and 393 deaths; Washington has 8,384 cases and 383 deaths.
Idaho is at 1,170 confirmed cases and 13 deaths; Iowa has 1,048 confirmed cases and 26 deaths.
Utah has 1,738 confirmed cases and 13 deaths as of the latest numbers released Tuesday by the state’s health department.