Columbus City Schools suspends sports, extracurricular activities

Alissa Widman Neese
awidmanneese@dispatch.com
Beechcroft football coach Humphrey Simmons leads players, including junior Antwoin Reed Jr. (front), through defensive line drills during practice Aug. 4. Superintendent Talisa Dixon announced Aug. 13 that extracurricular activities were suspended for all Columbus City Schools, effective Aug. 14.

Columbus City Schools has suspended all in-person athletics and extracurricular activities to curb the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, the district announced Thursday, Aug. 13.

The decision goes into effect Friday, Aug. 14.

The district will continue to evaluate with guidance from officials from Columbus Public Health, according to an announcement. Athletic teams had been permitted to participate in limited summer training and workouts since July 1.

“Today’s decision is a difficult one, but throughout this pandemic, our top priority has been the health and safety of our students, their families, our staff and the Columbus community,” Superintendent Talisa Dixon said. “We all know how important athletics and extracurricular activities are to our students, as well as the fabric of our schools and the communities they serve. But we also know the importance of protecting the health and safety of our students and those communities. We must make our decisions about the fall with that in mind.”

Walnut Ridge football coach Byron Mattox said he was "kind of blind-sided" by the district's announcement.

"I’m sitting here thinking that (Gov. Mike DeWine is) going to talk today and we're going to get some guidance (about fall contact sports) and what he’s going to say is kind of hopeful and then I get a group text from our coaches and several other coaches from other places texting and calling me," Mattox said. "(I was) kind of blind-sided by it. You’ve got kids that need to play and know what’s going on after being in limbo the entire time. It’s unfortunate. We talked to our guys yesterday about control what you can control and now we’ve got to do that."

Whetstone football coach Tom Jones said he understood the decision.

"Which risk do you want?" Jones asked. "You’re going to be darned either way you do it."

"This hurts," first-year Northland football coach Ryan Sayers said. "If we do come back, we would have to start our acclimation period all over again before we can play and we can't just throw kids out there after being off for maybe two to five weeks."

The district -- the state’s largest, with about 50,000 students -- is scheduled to start the school year Sept. 8 with all-online classes.

This is a developing story. Check ThisWeekNEWS.com and ThisWeekSPORTS.com for updates.

ThisWeek writers Jarrod Ulrey and Stephen Borgna contributed to this story.

awidmanneese@dispatch.com

@AlissaWidman