File photo

Lynne Hermansen
Special to The Gardner News
Gardner residents addressed the Gardner-Edgerton School Board Aug. 17 about allowing school Fall sports and extracurricular activities. Due to COVID concerns, patrons watched the board meeting while sitting in the hall, but were allowed in one at a time to speak.
Dave Johns, Gardner, said he had a petition signed by 1,000 people wanting the school district to allow Fall sports for 2020. “Gardner Pride shines through,” he said. “We need to protect our kids while allowing them to participate.”
Johns said the system that was put in place this summer has worked for coaches and athletes. “They followed the rules and everything that was asked of them,” he said.
He said he was concerned about the gating criteria of 14 percent Johnson County is using to base their sports decisions on. “It is not enough for our community,” he said.
Johns said most of Gardner’s positive COVID numbers are from the people quarantined at the Super 8 motel. “I understand it is an evolving situation,” he said. “But the numbers can’t be 100 percent accurate to shut down kids’ futures.”
Johns thanked board members for allowing kids to continue activities all summer. “Please let student athletes and extracurricular continue,” he said.
Asher Weiner, GE freshman, and Davonte Prichard, senior, also spoke. The two students are football players for GE high school and considered rising stars.
Weiner said he was concerned about how online school will work with his dyslexia. “Online learning is a disadvantage for people like me,” he said. “I’ve worked hard my whole life against dyslexia.”
Weiner said he was also concerned about how skipping fall football will make football scholarships possible. “The coaches and athletes have taken it seriously,” he said. “I understand the risks as there are risks with everything, but it is lonely when you can’t go to school and do our activities.”
Prichard said he was worried about the damage online school will have on unsupervised students in non-ideal home situations. “School is the only place with structure and values for many kids,” he said. “You go home and not all kids have parents.”
Pritchard said he went to foster care. “I would have never gotten out of my home situation if it hadn’t been for school and sports,” he said. Pritchard said many friends use sports to get out of drugs and have a different way of life. “Sports and school give kids a better life and a chance to have a different future,” he said.
Board members commended the students for having the courage to speak and share their feelings.
Shawn Carlisle, board president, said he was also proud of the students for speaking to the board and that he didn’t agree with the gating criteria.
Tresa Boden, member, said the gating criteria is ridiculous. “I can find medical professionals to support my opinions,” she said.
Boden said she has a well-adjusted kid who is a senior at GE high school and has also been struggling this summer. “These are good students and good athletes,” she said. “We are jacking them around and missing the boat with 10-18 year olds.” Boden said kids will not tell adults they are struggling. “Sneaky bad stuff is going to happen,” she said. “I’m saddened the gating criteria is so difficult.”
COVID-19 is a big deal, Boden said, but she is worried that they will miss what is happening with kids and their lives. “Staff and coaches miss their livelihood,” she said.
Linda Meisner, director of middle school education, said parents know what is best for their kids. “Kids are suffering and paying the price,” she said. “Kids want to be in school.”