MISSOULA -- On Tuesday, Dec. 8, Class AA superintendents sent a request to the Montana High School Association asking that the upcoming winter sports season be postponed, according to an email from Missoula County Public Schools superintendent Rob Watson that was sent to families on Friday night.
As of now, games for winter sports are set to begin the first week of January. Practices are already under way.
Watson's email said the "rationale for the request" is due to the recent increase in COVID-19 cases around the state and due to the difficulty of social distancing during winter sports activities.
"While we know that physical activity is important for all of us, the quarantining process when a positive case occurs on a sports team can create a significant disruption to in-person learning. MHSA has agreed to consider our request sometime in the next few weeks," said Watson's email.
MHSA executive director Mark Beckman confirmed with MTN Sports that Class AA superintendents have sent a request, but the MHSA executive board plans to assess the situation after the first winter sports contests are held on Saturday, Jan. 2.
"Our Board will evaluate how practices have gone, and how the first competitions on Jan. 2 and early the next week go, along with looking at the COVID numbers on Jan. 6 to see where those are after the Christmas break," Beckman told MTN Sports via email. "My board chair and I will meet with the group we have been meeting with every two weeks on Jan. 7 to go over that information (the group includes three pediatricians, Dr. (Greg) Holzman from state health and representatives from (Association of Montana Public Health Officials)). We will provide a report to our board on that meeting during their regular January board meeting on Jan. 11."
Quarantines have already impacted winter sports programs. Missoula Sentinel's boys basketball team paused basketball activities on Dec. 14 until Dec. 21 due to quarantines within the program, per the school's Twitter account.
"We need to take this opportunity early in the indoor winter sports season to pause and access our health and mitigation strategies to prevent potential spread and decrease the amount of interruptions to the season," first-year Sentinel basketball coach Jason Maki posted in a statement. "Please know, any close contacts have been identified and notified."