Column

Sahly: Lack of communication between IHSA, IDPH, Governor creates an even bigger mess

John Sahly
John Sahly

This was all so preventable.

Sounds like a good slogan for 2020, eh?

Specifically, though, we're talking today about the Illinois High School Association Board's decision to defy the Illinois Department of Public Health and Gov. JB Pritzker's Tuesday announcement that the high school winter sports season was "on hold" and instead press forward with basketball, while moving wrestling to the abbreviated summer season.

IHSA leaders said they learned about it 15 minutes before the governor told the rest of the state, a fact they were obviously perturbed by and made sure to point out. This comes after a July incident where the Illinois Department of Public Health and the governor's office made the IHSA roll back its reopening plan, which also was done with little heads-up.

Then on Wednesday it leaked out that the IHSA board had voted to move forward with basketball just before the governor's daily COVID-19 update, where, we shoudln't forget, another 6,110 new cases of the novel coronavirus were announced, the second highest single-day total for the state during the pandemic.

The governor then ratcheted up the rhetoric a bit. The IHSA administers only the state playoffs, so the decision to play basketball in the middle of a raging pandemic now resides in the hands of local school boards.

"We've told school districts what the rules are and I think they all know," Pritzker said. "So [the] IHSA may have their views but school districts know what the rules are. It's unfortunate but they would be probably be taking on legal liability."

This comes a week after many school districts have pulled back their hybrid learning in favor of full remote learning because of the surge in virus cases.

And the natural response, which we saw played out immediately on our social media channels is, of course, it's safe to play basketball, but not have in-person learning?

On its face, it makes zero sense to allow for one and not the other. And the lack of communication between the IHSA, IDPH and governor's office has now evolved into a petty high school drama.

The real losers are the local school boards, who have had to make constant, tough decisions about how many students can and should be in a building safely at any time for the purpose of, you know, education. Now they're being told that an indoor sport that isn't exactly known for social distancing is just fine, and as an added bonus, the IHSA will let you determine whether or not parents can watch their kids in what might be their last chance at a high school season. The best we can say is at least masks will be required.

What a mess. And it was all so preventable. And it's up to local residents to clean it up. The only guarantee is it will be met with anger and confusion for some, and either joy or relief for others.

• John Sahly is the digital editor for the Shaw Media Local News Network and editor-in-chief of Friday Night Drive. Contact him at jsahly@shawmedia.com

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