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Peoria Students Won't Play Basketball Until Next Spring, At The Earliest

Tim Shelley / Peoria Public Radio

The Peoria Public Schools board has voted 5-1 to suspend its basketball program until next spring.
The decision, made by the board of education Monday night, comes following guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and Illinois Board of Education for districts to postpone basketball this winter after deeming the sport "high-risk" due to the level of physical contact.

The Illinois High School Association disagrees with that guidance, and recommends allowing basketball this winter.

School board president Doug Shaw said while he doesn't want to take away anything from the students, he agrees with abiding by the decision.

"It just wouldn't make any sense from our standpoint to buck that guidance, and expose ourselves to potential lawsuits or going against that guidance if something happens as a result of it," Shaw said. "It would seem irresponsible from my perspective. It's an unpopular decision, but I think that's the way we need to go."

Terry Knapp, a former teacher's union president and regular public commentor at school board meetings, decried the district's decision for robbing students of opportunities.

"You are going to do unlimited damage to these kids that are not allowed to play," Knapp said.

He said the district should have notified students and parents sooner, so they could still transfer to a different district where they can play.

Superintendent Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat said the district's hands are largely tied. 

"The consequences are just really severe, in terms of possible funding ramifications, with funding being impacted negatively, and also liability," she said. "For many, many, many schools, the legal team is basically saying 'don't go there.'"

The bright side, she said, is the basketball season is only postponed, not eliminated altogether.

But there are no immediate answers on how deferred high school football and basketball seasons might overlap.

"We have smart people around who will have to put their heads together. I guess that's my answer. This is all new for us. I think if we can put our heads together, in the end, we can all figure it out," Desmoulin-Kherat said.

The superintendent said a group of Illinois school administrators is looking to sit down with Gov. JB Pritzker to make an argument for how students can play basketball safely, but she said this is the best decision to make for the moment.

Board member Chase Klaus was the only board member to vote against deferring the basketball season to next spring.

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Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.