Following an Oct. 10 rally to open Oregon City school athletic facilities, elected officials indicated support at their Oct. 12 board meeting to begin permitting sports conditioning and training, as allowed by state officials, as early as Oct. 26.
"The OCHS athletic department has already begun working with coaches to ensure appropriate health and safety protocols are implemented," said Superintendent Larry Didway.
Students like OCHS sophomore Parker Bolinger, who attended the protest, lamented that he couldn't participate in his usual football and soccer practices earlier, unlike neighboring school districts.
"It's about being with everyone and having a good time," Bolinger said.
Another rally attendee, Monica Whiteley, has a 9-year-old daughter at Redland and is a health and wellness teacher in a neighboring district. Whiteley coaches her daughter's teams that have had to travel to Marion County to play neighborhood teams also from Oregon City.
Being able to play sports is an equity issue for Whiteley and many other parents making the difficult decision to cut ties with the district's officially sanctioned athletic programs, knowing the move would leave kids behind who faced increased participation fees and traveling time.
"Our most vulnerable populations it affects the most," she said. "The gaps between the athletic haves and the haves-nots is just going to get bigger and bigger, just like in education."
Whiteley was a vocal proponent of district voters approving the $158 million bond for construction and renovation of school facilities, a ballot measure that passed with more than 60% support in November 2018. However, she's reversed her position on district construction projects as long as the district has closed access to athletic fields.
"We need to be able to have the facilities that we built to be able to use for our kids," she said.
George and Valerie Lee, board members of Oregon City Youth Sports, spoke at the Oct. 10 rally to reopen school facilities for activities, noting that they have plenty of volunteers who are willing to help to facilitate safety with temperature checks, masks, etc.
They told stories about families moving out of the district and others who are thinking about moving to a district that would support their children's needs for positive emotional and physical health through athletic participation.
School board member Anna Farmer, in attendance at the rally, said she appreciated the feedback from parents, but noted that COVID-19 transmission rates are a bigger concern than a student dying from the disease. The district is part of the Portland area, she noted, so Oregon City's decision could contribute to the spread of COVID-19 throughout Clackamas, Washington, Mulnomah and Clark counties.
"Employees here come from all four counties in the metro area," Farmer said.
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