MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. — School administrators have made the tough decision to postpone their football and volleyball seasons for student athletes, saying they must hold their student's health and well being as a top priority.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer said at the start of September that high schools would be allowed to resume play if student athletes wore protective face shields. While many districts across West Michigan have decided to reinstate their fall play, the school administration in Muskegon Heights has decided to postpone the season until the spring time.
“What we saw was that it was allowed to play but it was not recommended to play, and that's really where we got stuck," Superintendent Renee Garcia told FOX 17 Thursday afternoon.
"And we really struggled with how could we allow our students to play when we're being told it's not a safe choice.”
Garcia says the safety of students and staff in the district has continued to shape the way they have handled the current pandemic.
"Muskegon Heights has a disparity issue, like many other black and brown communities, we have about twice the number of COVID cases in our community as other areas of Muskegon county," she said.
Students in the district have not returned to school physically, they remain at home utilizing remote learning tools.
"We've put a very intensive supportive plan in place so our students are online daily and we’re checking in with them every day,” Garcia said.
The choice to postpone football and volleyball competition for the season wasn't one made lightly.
“We completely understand how important athletics is in the larger scheme of things and if there was any other way I believe we would be doing something different,” said athletic director Dalrecus Stewart.
“But we do have the best interest of the students at heart and we’re going to be very optimistic as we look forward.”
Former football player and current principal of Muskegon Heights high school Eddies Jones knows just how eager student athletes have been to get back together and compete, but he says postponing the season had to be done.
“I had a personal experience myself, as a father, as a parent, my son had COVID and was hospitalized for almost 2 months. And he was in a very severe situation,” Jones said Thursday.
“We’re looking forward to getting back to normal like everyone else is but first and foremost we do want to make sure were looking at the safety of our students.”
They want the community to understand that this is merely a pause on competition, not a full cancellation.
“We’ve already been in contact with other schools that have also decided to postpone until the spring of this year and they are very, very happy to work with us,” Stewart said.
The athletic director says students are still keeping in touch with each other despite not being physically together.
"The bonds are still there through the interactions online," Stewart said.
"It's hard to find sometimes but there are silver linings in everything, and I think we've found a new methodology for educating, for relationship building and for being close to one another."
You can keep up on the district's latest decisions by visiting their website.