DECATUR — As the standoff between the Illinois High School Association and the Illinois Department of Public Health and Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office continues, Decatur Public Schools teams won’t be playing basketball until at least 2021.
DPS announced it will continue virtual learning until at least Jan. 4 — the start of the third quarter — with an announcement about third-quarter plans set to come on Dec. 4, the district announced Friday.
As was the case with fall sports athletes, no in-person learning means no sports or extra-curriculars for the district.
“While DPS students are participating in virtual learning to protect the health and safety of both students and staff, we believe it’s appropriate to restrict athletics and other extra-curricular activities within our buildings as well,” a statement from DPS read. “Academics are the most important part of what we do at Decatur Public Schools. If our students are not learning in-person, they should not be participating in other in-person activities.”
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The tug-of-war on the status of the IHSA basketball season has played out in public this week. On Tuesday, Gov. Pritzker announced the season was “on hold” as the Governor’s office and the IDPH moved the season from medium to high risk, which only allows non-contact practices.
On Wednesday, the IHSA announced it was pushing forward with the season, despite the Gov. Pritzker’s announcement. The announcement effectively put the decisions in the hands of local school boards to determine if they will go forward with winter basketball, which is scheduled to begin on Nov. 14 with the first games coming on Nov. 30.
The saga continued on Thursday when Pritzker said he asked that basketball would be moved to the spring. The IHSA doubled down in an interview with the Peoria Journal Star.
“Nothing has changed,” IHSA executive director Craig Anderson told the Journal Star. “We’re still playing. We aren’t playing basketball in the spring or summer. We’ve approved basketball to be played in the winter, and that’s what we are moving ahead with.”
Of course, all of that is moot for Decatur Public Schools athletes as long as the district continues virtual learning. Should the decision to return to school come on Dec. 4, athletes would be permitted back in the gym on Jan. 4 when in-person instruction began. DPS Athletic Coordinator Joe Caputo said the district would follow the IDPH decisions, meaning no games and non-contact practices.
“We consider the expert being the IDPH,” Caputo said. “We know, obviously, we’ll take into account and consideration what comes form the IHSA and IESA because we’re member schools and we want to be a good partner, but we’re going to go by what we consider the expert as far as DPS is concerned and that’s the IDPH.”
Eisenhower boys basketball coach Rodney Walker said even if athletes could return on Jan. 4, they are months behind fellow school districts in the conference, including Springfield schools, which have been allowed to participate in the IHSA-approved contact days, Walker said.
“It’s going to be tough,” Walker said. “We can’t overlook safety. You’ve got to keep safety first. At the end of the day, as far as Decatur schools being able to compete, we’re already two months behind.”
Contact Joey Wagner at (217) 421-6970. Follow him on Twitter: @mrwagner25