Patchin addresses sports delay

HANCOCK — In a Monday afternoon email update, Superintendent Steve Patchin spoke on behalf of Hancock Public Schools in expressing disappointment over Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Friday announcement that high school sports will again be delayed, this time until Feb. 21. She made the announcement during a Friday morning press conference.

During the conference, Whitmer offered updates on business, such as restaurants, openings On Feb. 1. She also issued the status of high school winter sports.

Though she permitted increased capacity at large sports arenas from 250 to 500, Whitmer delayed the beginning of competition in high school contact sports until Feb. 21. Most notable of these sports are boys’ and girls’ basketball, along with ice hockey, all of which have been practicing since mid-January in anticipation of beginning their seasons on Feb. 1. The orders originated from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS).

Whitmer and the MDHHS announced that winter contact sports such as girls and boys basketball, competitive cheer, ice hockey and wrestling must remain non-contact through Feb. 21. The previous emergency order was set to expire at the end of January and would’ve allowed those sports to begin contact activities on Feb. 1.

Patchin said the announcement surprised all K-12 public schools and their governing sports body, the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA). The MHSAA has worked with Whitmer, and the MDHHS, to develop protocols to compete athletically using protocols that mitigate the spread of COVID-19. We have been successfully following these protocols throughout the year.

The MHSAA has provided superintendents and state leadership extensive data illustrating that participation in high school sports is not a source of a significant spread of COVID-19. Michigan remains one of three states in the nation that continues to ban participation in high school level contact sports.

On Friday, the MHSAA published a release in which the organization stated that it had not anticipated this delay in winter contact practices and competition, and Whitmer’s announcement has created many new questions.

In a Jan. 14, 2021, release, MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl stated that the Representative Council had approved a plan for adjusting schedules for the five winter “contact” sports that may begin non-contact practices on Jan. 16, but must delay any activities that involve physical contact between individuals until Feb. 1, per the recent update to the MDHHS epidemic plan.

“We have been planning these Finals for weeks to include immediate family, and unfortunately this isn’t a process we can adjust midstream,” Uyl said Friday. “Distributing more tickets would put stress on those plans and Ford Field staffing, and force schools to make more hard decisions on who will be able to attend, but at the last second instead of with prior planning.”

Uyl went on to say that the MHSAA found out about the state’s decision at 9:30 a.m. Friday, just like everyone else.

“And we will address it as quickly as possible after taking the weekend to collect more information,” he said Friday. “We did not anticipate this delay in winter contact practices and competition, and today’s announcement has created many new questions.

Patchin, in his Monday release, stated that it is the mission of the Hancock Public Schools ti develop students academically, emotionally, socially, and physically.

“Our education team helps them develop skills, gain knowledge, and provide a setting where they can apply what they are learning to become productive members of society while leading a healthy lifestyle,” stated Patchin. “For many students, their experiences in athletics is a vital component of their K-12 learning experience that will aid them in their pursuit of happiness and success, both personal and professional. The risk of our students playing competitive sports in a COVID-19 environment using effective mitigation strategies does not outweigh the lifelong benefits achieved in practicing and playing competitive sports in school.”

Hancock Public Schools does not, he said, support the MDHHS decision to again postpone competition of competitive high school winter sports until Feb. 21.

“The Hancock Public Schools School Board will be submitting a letter to leaders of the MDHHS, our state government leadership,” he went on to say, “and state senators and representatives requesting that we regain local control of K-12 athletics and in-person instruction, utilizing the Return to Learn plan developed with the Governors COVID-19 Task Force, including the plan regarding athletics constructed in collaboration with the MHSAA.

“Our athletic teams will continue to practice per MDHHS guidance. We will be working with the MHSAA and state officials to explore ways to safely participate in competitive contests.”


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