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  • Fairbury News staff

Hoops not totally off the table

Prairie Central High School basketball teams will be able to practice and safely maintain connections, although an actual season remains uncertain at this point.

That was the consensus of the Prairie Central Board of Education during a special meeting Tuesday evening, held both in person and online. Superintendent Paula Crane acknowledged the extremely difficult decision facing the board.

“Can we think outside the box? We’ve been doing it all year,” Crane said.

Even though the IHSA had said winter sports could proceed, Crane reminded the group the organization doesn’t have the power of the state board of education, which is the governing body run by the governor. She advised the group against basketball currently due to liability among other things.

“By defying the governor and IDPH, you are putting yourself personally at liability,” Crane told the board.

Other troubles include finding teams to play since a number of schools have said they won’t play, although some were undecided and still interested in discussing the idea.

Board president Mark Slagel does not see an advantage to taking action right now.

“I feel if we could keep this open a little more and see what plays out,” he noted.

“The kids are really being robbed of all this stuff,” added board member Brian Plenert.

PCHS principal Brad Allen explained sports shaped his life but his family could not handle a lawsuit which he considers the biggest setback. He believes it is too soon to write basketball off but it needs to be done the right way.

“IDPH and the governor are making this virtually impossible to do,” Allen observed.

Athletic Director Austin Wenger would like to see the kids play in some capacity even if it means a delayed start to the season. Wenger said he understands the risk involved but the athletes would benefit from playing.

“You’d also feel awful if something happened,” Wenger explained. “I think you could find some middle ground in there.”

Coaches, a parent and player addressed the board at the start of the meeting.

Boys basketball coach Darin Bazzell thinks it would be best to have a way to play in some capacity as the sport builds character, teamwork, leadership development, exercise and mental health.

“As players, I think they need to (play),” said Bazzell.

Bazzell pointed to his close relationships with fellow players and coaches over the years and he wants the kids to have those same experiences.

As a senior, player Trey Bazzell, like every other youth around the country, has missed out on a lot this year. Basketball is his favorite sport and he wants to play.

“I’d love to be given a chance to at least have some sort of a senior season.”

Parent Lynette Bazzell told the board no one in the room cares more about the players than their parents do. They feel their children’s safety is the most important thing and they want them to play.

“They’re young, they’re healthy, they’re strong and they need to play,” she said.

Assistant boys basketball coach Trevin McCulloh feels the team has “so much heart” and has gone through quite a bit during the past several months.

“All of their dreams were pushed away,” McCulloh stated. “I think within the next couple of months, we should have the chance to play.”

In another matter, the board discussed the possibility of using e-learning days in lieu of emergency days. This means an e-learning day would take the place of a traditional snow day. It helps that the schools are already equipped to send home electronic devices this year with students due to COVID. The e-learning day would count as a student attendance day and this could be done for five days during the year. A resolution must be passed by the board next week.

Superintendent Crane also gave an update on this week’s return to remote learning and what the future may look like. She is working to get the grade schools back to in-person learning next week but the high school is a different story as their shutdown may have to be prolonged for another week.

“I can’t even say enough about how our kids have been this year all across the board,” Crane concluded.

School administrators have been subbing almost every day.

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