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Fall Sports Resume In Bay Village After Community Outcry

Bay Village students rally to support the resumption of fall sports and extracurriculars on Wednesday. [Tracy Viets]
Bay Village students rally to support the resumption of fall sports on Wed. [Tracy Viets]

Updated: 5:45 p.m., Aug 5, 2020 

Days after canceling sports and extracurriculars due to COVID-19, Bay Village schools will resume activities Thursday, August 6, according to a statement from school officials. 

The district had previously suspended sports last week after the county’s health board recommended canceling extracurriculars. 

Parents and students pushed back on the decision and initially planned a protest rally Wednesday night. They still rallied even after the announcements that practices would resume.

“While we are grateful, it’s important that the season continues as well,” said Tracy Viets, a parent who attended the rally. 

Other Cuyahoga County parents and students are pushing back as several school districts are canceling fall sports and extracurriculars due to fears of the spread of the coronavirus.

North Royalton parents and students held a rally Monday morning to protest the school district’s suspension of extracurricular activities, and in Brecksville, families  demonstrated from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday as the Brecksville-Broadview Heights Board of Education discussed whether to go forth with in-person schooling and extracurriculars. 

North Royalton and Bay Village schools suspended sports last week after the Cuyahoga County Board of Health recommended canceling all extracurriculars due to COVID-19. But the guidance from the Cuyahoga health board is at odds with information that has been shared with schools and parents from the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s (OHSAA) and the Ohio Department of Health (ODH).  Both OHSAA and ODH have both permitted athletes in fall sports to continue practicing while following safety guidelines, such as social distancing

Bay Village parent, Rachael Stafford, said students and parents are frustrated by the unclear guidance from state and local health officials.

“It’s just contradicting and confusing, and it’s a mixed message,” said Stafford.

Stafford’s daughters, Callan and Anna, play volleyball at Bay High School in Bay Village. They had been already practicing this summer under the OHSAA guidelines, Stafford said.

Her kids were getting ready for tryouts when school officials announced the decision, she said.

“It’s just been filtering a lot of different information from a lot of different sources, and a lot of pivoting and readjusting, and I think that from an emotional standpoint, it’s been really hard for the kids,” she said.

Another Bay Village parent, Brendan Pickett, said the differing guidance is confusing, and safety advice should not be one-size-fits-all.

“If the state says it’s okay to play, [and] if the athletic association says it’s okay to play, and you have the county making a recommendation that you shouldn’t – but yet you can look and say this doesn’t fit us, then we should be playing,” Pickett said.

Pickett’s son Brock, a senior who plays soccer for Bay Village, is joining other students in protesting the school district’s decision this Wednesday.

“These kids need those types of outlets,” he said. “This isn’t just about Friday night lights.”

Melanie Kirin, who helped organize the Brecksville rally that will be held Monday night as the board is deciding whether to hold remote or in-person classes, said parents have expressed through surveys and feedback that they want an option of in-person instruction this fall.

“We know our kids. We know this district. We’ve watched our case numbers, and we really feel that sending our kids back into the classroom is going to be a safe environment for them,” she said.

The Brecksville district is near Medina and Summit counties, which are both classified at lower risk levels than Cuyahoga in the state’s public health advisory system, Kirin said.

The Cuyahoga County Board of Health’s recommendation “isn’t all that representative of the population here in our district, so it’s kind of frustrating,” she said.

Bay Village parents echoed this criticism. Bay Village competes in the OHSAA’s Great Lakes Conference, which also includes teams from Lorain and Medina counties.

Tracy Viets, whose kids play basketball and track for Bay Village, said it has been disheartening for students to see players from other schools in the conference moving forward with their practices.

“They’ve become a spectator to their peers that are in other areas,” she said.

Viets plans to attend the Bay Village protest on Wednesday with her kids, which will be held at 4 p.m. in front of the Bay Village Board of Education building on Wolf Road.

Bay Village Superintendent Jodie Hausmann said in a written statement that the suspension of extracurriculars is just for the time being, and she has not yet made a final decision about whether to proceed with the fall sports.

Anna Huntsman covers Akron, Canton and surrounding communities for Ideastream Public Media.