Group calls on Omaha Public Schools to resume fall sports
OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Huskers football legend Johnny Rodgers joined a grassroots group of parents, student-athletes, and community members in a rally outside of Omaha Public Schools on Tuesday afternoon calling for the district to reinstate the fall athletic season.
OPS, in effect, canceled fall sports and activities in August when it moved to its 100% remote-learning for at least the first quarter in hopes of preventing further spread of COVID-19 in the school district.
In between chants of “Let us play,” parents and student-athletes shared their opinions about the decision, saying the district should not be making decisions for parents. Some talked about sports as a means to attend college on a scholarship, others talked about
Students called the loss of the season “heartbreaking,” saying Superintendent Cheryl Logan and the school board hasn’t been listening to families and argued that parents should be able to sign waivers allowing their children to play sports. “There are precautions that could be taken,” one student said, pointing out that other teams have found a way to continue playing.
Another student-athlete said it was difficult for her to watch other districts continue to play the sports they’ve been preparing for while they aren’t allowed.
“It’s our future, not everybody else’s,” another student-athlete said.
Rodgers, a Heisman trophy winner, talked about the opportunities sports afforded him and said that if other districts can figure out a way to play, the largest school district in the state ought to be able to do the same.
“If we take away the sports from our young people that we’re taking their access, to the rest of their lives, things that are going on,” he said. “And if we’re taking away their access, then we’re taking away their opportunities... And if we take away their opportunity, we might as well take away their hope.”
He said parents should have the right to decide what activities their children are able to participate in.
Another parent spoke against the district’s decision on behalf of his daughter, who he said has Down’s syndrome.
“OPS is currently in violation of her right to have a quality education,” he said.
Another parent who is an epidemiologist said he didn’t agree with the district’s decision either.
“We will win. Don’t give it up,” he said.
The group said it expects results by Sept. 10, when the board is scheduled to have a special meeting.
The district sent a letter out to student families Monday night in anticipation of Tuesday’s rally:
Dear Omaha Public Schools High School Students and Families,
Following a weekend that would have marked the start of many fall athletics, arts and activities, we want to take a moment and acknowledge the disappointment many of our students and families face during this time.
We understand the important role extra-curricular activities play in a student’s school experience. Just as we would like to be learning with students in person each day, we all wish they were also taking the fields, trails, courts and courses to compete.
As we monitor transmission of COVID-19 in the Omaha community, informed by guidance from the Douglas County Health Department and partners like UNMC, if it is not the right time for students to learn socially distanced in a classroom, we know that group workouts, weightlifting and competition cannot take place in a safe and responsible manner. It is not a decision made lightly and to our students and families voicing frustration, we hear you.
Throughout our planning process, we’ve shared that in addition to neighboring school districts, we are regularly in contact with the districts most like ours across the country. Several large, urban school communities have reached similar, difficult decisions related to fall activities.
Just as we are preparing for an in-person return to learning when it is possible, we very much look forward to the return of athletics, arts and activities when we can provide them in a responsible way. We are actively exploring alternative options to provide students with a chance to play and compete when it is safe to do so. Though we do not have additional information to share at this time, we will keep students, staff and families up to date as more becomes available. Health and safety have and will continue to be at the forefront of all that we do.
We care very deeply for our students. We’re reminded of the state swim meet last winter, before the pandemic forced such a dramatic change in our daily routines. It was awe-inspiring to see athletes from across our district cheer as one group at the meet, coming together to represent Omaha Public Schools. Though it cannot come soon enough, we are just as eager to enjoy those opportunities again.
Mr. Marque Snow Dr. Cheryl Logan
Board of Education President Superintendent
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