Roaring Fork schools tightening COVID protocols around winter athletics
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Basketball courts and wrestling mats are the lone spaces where students are currently permitted to remove face coverings inside Roaring Fork schools.
Athletes not actively participating in the event — like sitting on the bench — are asked to stay masked. So, too, are parents and fans in the stands. Following a recent lack of compliance, mostly from visiting fans, the district retooled its COVID-19 safety protocols specifically for athletics competitions.
“They’re making it very hard on the people who are working in the schools: the administrators and the athletic directors and others who supervise,” Roaring Fork School District Superintendent Rob Stein said. “They’re just making it a very unpleasant experience for them to just do their jobs… I just think that those people are making choices that jeopardize the bigger ability of everybody to participate and enjoy those things.”
The district announced new protocols on Jan. 7. Spectators at sporting events in Roaring Fork schools are given one reminder if they aren’t wearing their mask properly. If they fail to comply and create a disturbance, “games will be paused until those spectators have left the gym,” a release from the district states.
Additionally, if spectators from the same visiting school continue to fail to comply, those visitors will be disallowed from attending games at a Roaring Fork school for the remainder of the season.
“We’re not trying to take anything away from anybody,” Glenwood Springs High School Athletic Director Craig Denney said. “We’re just trying to keep people safe. That’s it.”
Denney said he’s only had one incident at events in Glenwood Springs, but was able to resolve it without any ejections.
However, it’s a continuous discussion of reminding people to keep their masks on, including the home crowd to some extent.
If home students or home parents repeatedly violate the protocols, that respective group will receive a one-game suspension from game attendance under the new rules.
One way the rules have been skirted was “grazing,” as Denney called it. Masks were previously allowed to be pulled down for eating and drinking purposes. After some fans used it as an excuse to not wear a mask for the entirety of an event, concession stands were closed and food and drink were disallowed in gyms.
As of Monday, the district had 106 students in quarantine, 45 of which were high schoolers.
Denney said athletes are asked to continue wearing their masks on the bench for road games, but the ultimate sentiment from the district is following the house rules.
“We just ask that they follow along with our protocols when they come here just like we would follow along with their protocols when we go to their place,” Denney said. “If I walk into your house and you ask me to take my shoes off, I’m not going to walk into your house with my shoes on.”
The new protocols will be reevaluated at the end of January.
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Like most high school sports programs across the nation right now, Garfield County athletics directors are seeing fewer applicants for open coaching positions. Five years ago vacant positions were filled within just a couple of days.