By Mike Deak
ELKHART – It was a crazy 24 hours in Elkhart County. And while some sense of normalcy has been retained in the Elkhart County public school systems, there will be alterations after all to plans for returning to the classroom and the athletic forums.
News leaked Thursday afternoon of a complete shutdown of the athletic, extracurricular and co-curricular aspects of the school experience for the seven Elkhart County public high schools, spanning out to Sept. 28. Classrooms were also reported to be going strictly virtual in that time frame as well, sending not only the athletic spectrum into a fury, but parents from all age groups as well in the classroom sense.
Less than 24 hours later, shortly after hundreds of protestors descended upon the Elkhart County Health Department offices as well as at least one other school corporation building, the declarations were being walked back by Dr. Lydia Mertz and the ECHD.
By the end of Thursday evening, announcements of postponement had come from Northridge, NorthWood, Jimtown and Concord schools to halt its athletic practices and extracurricular activities effective immediately. By 5 p.m. Friday, the athletic directors from those four schools, plus the remainder of Elkhart, Fairfield and Goshen, were in a meeting to work out a plan to return to sports after a fierce backlash from those involved.
In a statement released Friday following the meetings, it was declared:
“In light Public Health Order 04-2020 issued by the Elkhart County Health Department on August 7, 2020, the Elkhart County public school athletic directors met on August 7 to discuss the impact on high school athletics.
“All seven Elkhart County public high schools have received clearance from their superintendents to resume practices immediately, provided the rules laid out in the Public Health Order are met. Head coaches will be instructed on how thee rules affect each of their particular sports.
“As a result of this order, all controlled scrimmages, jamborees, and contest in football, volleyball, cross country and soccer have been suspended through August 24. Schools will work with their individual opponents in each sport to determine if the affected contests will be rescheduled for a later date or be canceled.
“Because the six foot distancing requirement can be met, boys tennis may conduct scrimmages with singles play only. Girls golf contests will continue as scheduled.
“We will provide additional information as it becomes available.”
As it stands as of Saturday morning, girls golf in the county is able to continue on as normal, notably NorthWood carrying on to compete in the State Preview at Prairie View Golf Club in Carmel. Boys tennis will ramp up next week.
Everyone is asking about football, and it could happen for Elkhart County in week two. Week one, ironically, had six of the seven programs playing each other in Goshen versus Fairfield, Concord versus Elkhart and NorthWood versus Jimtown. Northridge was to play South Bend Adams, which could work out for Adams as South Bend Washington was to have played Hammond, which suspended its fall sports, so Adams and Washington could naturally face off.
The only catch with football could be practices, where teams can resume its Phase 1-like practices, but will the IHSAA allow those to be counted as official practices. That much was not resolved as of Saturday morning.
Otherwise, welcome back to action, Elkhart County. See you in a couple weeks.