Ann Arbor Public Schools postpones start of winter sports season

Superintendent announces delayed start in January, cites COVID-19 risk

Ann Arbor Skyline High School's boys swim team competes against Canton High School in Dec. 2018. (Skyline High School | Ann Arbor Public Schools)

ANN ARBOR – Superintendent of Ann Arbor Public Schools, Jeanice Kerr Swift, announced on Thursday that the winter sports season will be delayed until January due to concerns over COVID-19.

As the number of cases continues to rise in Washtenaw County and across the state, the risk is significantly higher than during the fall sports season, said Swift.

“The health and safety of our student-athletes and coaches continue as our highest priority,” read the statement. “Participation in indoor practices and competitions during a public health pandemic comes with a risk to the health and safety of those involved.”

The announcement comes two weeks after Swift urged the Michigan High School Athletic Association in a public letter to postpone the winter sports season. The week prior, the MHSAA had announced that all winter sports seasons would proceed as planned.

Since Swift’s original letter on Oct. 30, new county and statewide cases have skyrocketed, breaking numerous one-day infection records.

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On Thursday, the Washtenaw County Health Department announced it can no longer keep up with contact tracing due to the sharp increase in cases and noted that the majority of cases are no longer linked to young people and students.

“Don’t wait for a call from the Health Department,” Jimena Loveluck, health officer for Washtenaw County Health Department, said in a statement. “With the surge in cases and related hospitalizations, we cannot get to all situations as quickly as we’d like.”

Ann Arbor Public Schools have been closed since March and students have been learning virtually since the beginning of the 2020-21 school year. Schools across Metro Detroit have begun to shift from in-person to remote learning due to the surge in new COVID-19 cases.

According to Swift, AAPS will be monitoring COVID-19 infection rates in the county and around the state and will work with the Southeastern Conference superintendents and athletic directors to develop a shortened sports season beginning in January.

The start of the sports season will be conditional upon a decline in COVID-19 cases to “acceptable levels.”

Swift also outlined the winter sports season in phases:

Phase 1 (November 1 - 11, 2020): Delay the start of all winter sports; outdoor training continues; virtual coaching/training continues/begin; update to the Board on November 11, 2020, including a recommendation to cancel MS Winter 1 sports season

Phase 2 (November 12 - 30, 2020): Monitor COVID-19 rates of infection and continue the delay the start of all winter sports; virtual coaching/training may continue/begin; begin discussions with SEC Superintendents and Athletic Directors about an abbreviated season to start in January 2021

Phase 3 (December 2020): Monitor COVID-19 rates; consider small-group, in-person practice/training sessions while continuing virtual coaching/training; continue discussions with SEC Superintendents and Athletic Directors about an abbreviated season beginning in January 2021; update to the Board on December 9, 2020

Phase 4 (January 1 - 17, 2021): Monitor COVID-19 rates; consider expanding in-person practice/training sessions while continuing virtual coaching/training; adjust competition schedules to align with the MHSAA dates for post-season tournaments; update to the Board on January 13, 2021

Phase 5 (January 19 - March 2021): Monitor COVID-19 rates; consider beginning in-person practices/training sessions and a conditional start of the competition season; regular updates to the Board (January 27, 2021 – TBD)

About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.