School districts across Colorado may still be struggling with when to resume in-person classes, but high school sports competition started up again on Thursday after a 22-week pause because of the coronavirus crisis.
High school golfers from across the metro area gathered at Wellshire Golf Course in Denver to tee off in what Gov. Jared Polis hopes will mark the return of more normalcy to Colorado after months of an anything-but-normal existence.
“It’s an important part of Colorado moving forward,” Polis said while making good on his promise to attend the first high school sports competition since COVID-19 seized the state.
But not everything has gone according to plan.
Football, boys soccer, girls volleyball, field hockey and gymnastics won’t return until the spring as health and education officials warily eye Colorado’s recent rise in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. Those have both since plateaued.
“A few months ago, I thought it was all going to happen because we were in a great place with our numbers,” said Rhonda Blanford-Green, commissioners of the Colorado High School Activities Association. “But then we slowly saw there was potentially some resurgence, so we had to take some steps back.”
Blanford-Green said a month ago she wasn’t sure any fall sports were going to be approved.
“This is what our kids need,” she said Thursday at Wellshire.
Cross country, softball and boys tennis will also resume in Colorado in the the fall.
Recreational sports in Colorado resumed weeks ago to mixed results. There have been a number of outbreaks linked to athletics. Blanford-Green said some high schools that held practices over the summer saw spread of the disease and had to shut down.
But Blanford-Green is optimistic about high school sports being able to fully operate this school year, even if some schools are operating on a hybrid model of in-person and remote classes because of coronavirus fears.
“It is important to resume athletics and activities safely,” she said. “But the overall picture of what high school athletics and activities do for our students within the education setting — the data and the studies show our kids need this.”
The last high school sports competition — a game or match — in Colorado happened on March 12. After that, activities were shut down as the state dealt with its first surge of coronavirus cases.
Polis said while he’s confident CHSAA has taken steps to make athletics as safe as possible, he still expects there to be hurdles as sports resume.
“There will be times that teams have to shut down, cancel games,” he said. “But, by-in-large, every sport will occur.”
The in-person return of students at some of Colorado’s largest school districts remain unknown. Denver Public Schools pushed back its in-person reopening until at least mid-October and Jefferson County Public Schools will be operating fully remote until at least Sept. 8.
Meanwhile, districts in rural parts of Colorado are already welcoming students back to classes or are slated to being doing so in the coming weeks.