Rifle, Coal Ridge high schools to stay with state’s plan for spring football season | AspenTimes.com

Rifle, Coal Ridge high schools to stay with state’s plan for spring football season

John Stroud
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Basalt High School football hosts Rifle on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019, on the BHS field. The Longhorns won the Class 2A state quarterfinal game in double overtime, 21-14. (Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times)
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

High schools in the Garfield Re-2 School District will join other area schools in sticking with the state’s previously announced modified spring football season, instead of the new fall option allowed just this week, the district announced Saturday.

The Colorado High School Activities Association on Wednesday agreed to allow schools to decide whether to play football in a shortened fall season — with strict safety measures in place related to the COVID-19 pandemic — or wait until the optional Season C when it’s possible some of those measures could be relaxed.

That season is slated to begin with formal practices Feb. 22, followed by game schedules and playoffs running through May 8.

CHSAA’s announcement gave districts two school days to decide whether to ramp up for a fall season to begin in early October.

Given numerous concerns with the fall option, Re-2’s two high schools, Rifle and Coal Ridge, will wait until spring to play football, the district announced in a Saturday letter sent out to student-athletes and parents.

The decision comes on the heels of those by the Roaring Fork School District (Glenwood Springs, Roaring Fork and Basalt) and Garfield District 16 (Grand Valley) to also wait until spring.

Moffat County High School in Craig, a Class 2A Western Slope League rival of Rifle, Coal Ridge and Basalt, announced Saturday it was going to play fall football, despite its league foes opting out.

As of Saturday afternoon, Aspen High School had yet to announce its decision on whether to play football in the fall or spring. AHS also plays in the 2A WSL.

Re-2’s decision does not impact the cheer/spirit season that CHSAA also said could begin Monday, which will go forward.

“First and foremost, we are saying yes to football. Garfield Re-2 athletes will be playing football in the spring,” the letter advised. “The first priority of the Garfield Re-2 School District is to keep as many of our students learning either in person or via distance learning as possible. The safety measures we have put into place for in-person learning are being successful. The benefit of bringing athletics back incrementally is that schools can test and refine their safety practices. We continue to introduce the activities of ‘traditional’ education back gradually so that we can keep as many students in-person as possible.”

The letter was jointly signed by Re-2 Superintendent Heather Grumley, and the principals and athletic directors of the two high schools.

It notes the required safety elements that would have to be followed at this point in time “would greatly impact the authenticity of the game.”

Those measures include social distancing on the sidelines, mask-wearing, transportation limitations and extra costs, prohibited locker room use, roster limits, laundry requirements and cleaning protocols.

“In addition, local public health regulations would severely limit the number of spectators, if they were allowed at all,” the letter also points out. “A large part of the football experience is having our community in the stands supporting their kids, their friends, and their high school. We have hope that our bleachers will be able to be full in March.”

The safety measures necessary for the fall season to be played may or may not be in place in the spring, depending on the risk levels at that time for the spread of COVID-19.

Over the past two weeks, Garfield Re-2 has already had nearly 200 students and some 20 staff members pivot to online learning and quarantine status due to positive COVID-19 cases.

“Our cohorts have held and our processes for informing families seem to have been successful,” the district also stated in its Saturday letter. “Introducing other variables increases the odds of more students and staff moving to quarantine status.”

Many families and students had also already planned their school year schedules around the spring football season, so changing now would have created a hardship, the letter noted.

“Rushing into the football season suddenly and without proper time to work out logistics would not set our athletes up for success,” it concluded. “We are working closely with other teams in our leagues, including District 16 and Roaring Fork, so that we can offer a competitive football season for each of our schools next spring as currently provided in the CHSAA schedule, even if that means playing teams in other conferences. We are all eager to give our kids opportunities to resume normal activities.”