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ROE Superintendent Expects More Schools To Skip Basketball; PPS Board Votes Tonight

Joe Deacon
The Illinois High School Association has decided to move forward with the basketball season, despite the Illinois Department of Public Health elevating the sport to the high-risk category.

In defiance of Illinois Department of Public Health guidelines, the Illinois High School Association decided to let the basketball seasons begin as planned later this month.

But Peoria County Regional Superintendent of Schools Beth Crider says that puts school districts in a difficult position.

“There is nothing more that our local coaches, athletic directors, teachers, principals and administrators want than to see kids engaging in the activities that they love,” Crider said. “It's good for their mental health. It's good for their physical health. It's part of being in school.

“But we're in the middle of a pandemic, and there's a lot more that we have to weigh than just whether or not it's OK to play basketball. So they're going to weigh all those factors, and I think you're going to see more and more schools deciding not to play basketball.”

The Peoria Public Schools Board of Education is expected to vote on basketball at its meeting Monday night, and the Diocese of Peoria already has chosen not to play. Crider noted choosing to play would be defying state COVID-19 mitigation efforts.

“Superintendents are not making this decision, nor the principals or athletic directors,” she said. “It’s going to be our local school boards because they're going to have to weigh whether they want to go against the Illinois Department of Public Health guidelines--and that's a tough spot to be in.”

Crider said she understands why the IHSA chose to move forward with basketball, one day after the IDPH elevated the sport to the high-risk category for spreading the coronavirus.

“Their interest is students participating and students getting to do what they love, and they wanted to make it a local decision,” she said. “I don't think anyone has ill intent to try to do something that is harmful, but it puts a lot of burden on our local school districts.”

Crider said she has been in conversations with several superintendents and school board members throughout the county as they try to balance legal and insurance ramifications with the desire of young athletes. She said the hope is the IHSA and IDPH can reach some consensus.

“Maybe there'll be more cooperation at a higher level between all of the agencies,” she said. “Maybe we'll get better guidance and then we'll move forward. There’s still time; the season was not slated to begin until later in November. So hopefully maybe those agencies can have good conversations.”

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Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.