Restrictions on school activities create confusion
Last updated 3/3/2021 at Noon
As COVID-19 restrictions ease and school activities resume, community members and school staff continue to navigate a confusing thicket of restrictions. One area of confusion surrounds what kinds of community uses are allowed in school facilities.
“It’s not as simple and clear-cut as we’re open or we’re not open,” Sisters Schools Superintendent Curt Scholl told The Nugget.
The school district has virtually no control over what they can and can’t allow in their facilities — that all falls under state mandates from the Oregon Health Authority, Deschutes County Health Department, and the Oregon School Activities Association. The mandates dictate what kind of activities are acceptable and what numbers of people are allowed to gather and participate.
And those mandates can be confusing.
For example, volleyball competition is currently allowed in gyms, meaning Outlaws teams and clubs alike are an allowed use. Basketball training is allowed, but competition isn’t.
“Currently, basketball — not training, but playing the game — is still prohibited,” Scholl said.
OSAA guidelines, which come at the behest of the Oregon Health Authority, treat basketball as a contact sport because of the close guarding of players. Under the revised guidelines released February 12, “indoor full-contact sports remain prohibited at this time. Training and conditioning cannot include full contact of any kind.”
That means no community basketball games, and the Outlaws can practice drills, but not compete.
Scholl said that the last time he visited a practice, “there was one kid at each hoop doing drills,” which was what was allowed under spacing guidelines.
“I know it’s frustrating and confusing for people,” Scholl said. “It is for us too.”
There is frustration, too, over restrictions on spectators at sporting activities that are allowed.
Outlaw parent Julie Spor wrote to the school district urging that some spectators be allowed to watch football games.
“Part of the thrill and the joy of sports is having fans and a support system there. Especially after being away from this type of pressure situation (competition) for a while, to be out there alone will be pretty disappointing, I’m sure, for the athletes, even though I know they are thrilled to get to play,” Spor said. “I would hope that if there is a chance left up to the schools to allow spectators, that the Sisters School District will strongly consider allowing, at a minimum, the immediate families of these athletes in to support their kids, and to be a part of something as important as small-town sports in our community.”
But in this arena, too, the Sisters School District isn’t calling the shots.
Scholl noted that current OHA/OSAA restrictions set the total number of people in the stadium — players, coaches, staff — at 120. His understanding is that that number is derived from the desire to maintain the ability to do effective contact tracing if an outbreak occurs.
He acknowledged the frustration that such a tight cap creates, especially since Reed Stadium is outdoors and quite expansive.
“We should be able to safely provide more opportunities,” he said.
According to the superintendent, the risks to the school district of going against the restrictions provided through state “guidance” are significant.
“They are connecting our following of the guidance to our liability coverage as a district,” he wrote in his exchange with Spor. “If we ignore it, we will have no liability coverage, especially around the potential spread of COVID.”
Scholl told The Nugget that the school district is eager to get as many activities as possible underway.
“We believe that the schools are an asset to the community and want to have as many activities open as possible that are accepted as a use,” he said.
More information on OSAA guidelines is available at www.osaa.org/coronavirus.