Baker School District athletic director Buell Gonzales Jr. is urging people to endorse a letter advocating for Oregon officials to allow high school football practice to start Feb. 8.

That’s the day practices could start, in preparation for a shortened season for football and other fall sports, volleyball, cross-country and soccer.

Those sports were postponed last fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) has set a tentative schedule of Feb. 22 to April 10 for traditional fall sports, with games starting March 1.

But under current Oregon guidelines, contact sports, including football, are prohibited, including practices.

“Nothing has changed,” Gonzales said. “I just keep hoping and waiting that they give some sort of indication on when they’ll allow contact sports or give some sort of guidance on something that is different. We are still tied to our county numbers, they’re still not allowing contact sports. So no answer or movement yet for football, basketball, wrestling and cheerleading.”

Basketball and wrestling, as traditional winter sports, are slated to start May 10.

Baker’s first football game, presuming the sport is allowed, would be March 5 at Vale.

Meanwhile the Oregon Athletics Coaches Association has created a “Return to Play” campaign that includes a form letter residents can sign and send to Gov. Kate Brown and the signer’s representatives in the Oregon Legislature.

The letter urges the governor to allow not only football, but all high school sports and co-curricular activities such as band and choir, to resume Feb. 8.

“If we miss that date, seasons will be cancelled and lost forever, and our student-athletes will not be able to benefit from crucial activities they love and need,” the letter reads. “These co-curricular activities — whether it is playing football, competing in dance, or singing in the choir — are essential engagements for our young people offering crucial connections to peers, adults and communities.”

Gonzales said he’s excited about the campaign, and he hopes it yields results.

“This is how things progress, we read it, we get behind it and if it’s something that we want, we send it to our elected officials,” he said. “If they want to see change, this is how they would go about it.”

Gonzales said that although he’s confident the other traditional fall sports — volleyball, cross-country and soccer — will be able to start practicing in mid-February, he feels differently about football.

He said he thought state officials would have an update after the OSAA executive board met Jan. 20-22, but that hasn’t happened.

“That was the date that I would have thought if we were going to play football, that they were going to have some sort of timetable for football or contact sports,” Gonzales said. “I’m not saying things might not change over the next couple of weeks.”

The letter lists several reasons why students should be allowed to return to sports and other activities, including:

• Students are vulnerable to anxiety, depression and suicide, dangers worsened by the effects of distance learning.

“The cancellation of activities this school year will only further exacerbate this serious issue among Oregon high school students,” the letter reads.

• COVID-19 has not caused any deaths in Oregon of people 19 and younger.

• The letter cites a University of Wisconsin study of states that have allowed high school sports during the pandemic, which found that sports didn’t lead to a higher rate of virus spread.

A total of 35 states allowed high school football during 2020, according to the letter.

Those interested in signing the “Return to Play” letter can go to this link: https://sites.google.com/lakeview.k12.or.us/return-to-play-electronic-sign/home

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