After much debate according to district officials, Grand Rapids Public Schools announced Thursday that fall sports are back on and will be played—including football. And according to officials, Grand Rapids Public Schools is the last public school district in West Michigan to make the decision.
The announcement comes exactly one week after Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer eased an executive order that allowed for high school athletics to resume. However, the governor’s office also encouraged schools not to play contact sports--only stating that it wouldn’t be prohibited--and leaving that decision up to the districts.
John Helmholdt is the Communications Director for Grand Rapids Public Schools. He says the decision, did not come lightly.
“We engaged with the Kent County Health Department locally, we talked to board members, and we surveyed parents to gauge their level of confidence and comfort in returning to fall sports,” Helmholdt said. “The survey results were overwhelming; 70 percent out of a 1000 respondents support returning to all fall sports.”
But is it the right decision? Helmholdt says he understands that many will say the answer is ‘no,’ but offers this argument:
“Athletics are purely voluntary,” Helmholdt said. “For those individuals who are not comfortable with their students participating, they can simply choose not to sign them up for athletics this fall.”
A number of safety measures have been put in place, including masks being worn on and off the field, the cancellation of concessions, and only parents and guardians of players allowed to by physically present for live games.