BEAVERTON, Ore. — High school athletes in Oregon hope to hear this week what sports will look like this fall during the coronavirus pandemic.
But before the Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) makes an announcement, the Beaverton School District posted on Facebook that it was suspending all practices, including fall sports such as football and soccer and winter sports like basketball.
The night before their kids' first practice was scheduled, parents like the Larissa Jaekel found out the school district was pressing the pause button. Jaekel's son worked for years leading up to his senior season on Sunset High School's football team..
“You see your little boy start playing in third grade and moving up, getting better. It's like this thing where you picture them playing at high school," Jaekel said, "This is his year and his chance to lead the team as quarterback and it's sad it gets taken away. It is something you could absolutely never get back."
"It's heartbreaking because I know how much time and effort my son and his teammates put in to their sport and I know how much they miss it," she said.
On Facebook, and in a statement to KGW, Beaverton School District said due to an increase in COVID-19 cases in the area and their need to protect the health of their student-athletes and coaches, it was suspending all athletic practices indefinitely.
The 11th-hour news crushed Lori White and her son, an incoming sophomore on Sunset High's basketball team. The change of course shocked her and her family.
"My son, long before all this, was diagnosed with depression and sports is definitely the drug of choice to help maintain his highs and lows," White told KGW. "Sports have always been a really valuable part of his life and our lives. So it’s just heartbreaking that this is being yo-yoed around and they don’t see the broader implications."
White says her family filled out assumption of risk waivers on Sunday after her son's basketball coach told them the team would begin summer practice July 27.
"The implications of not having it for teens is so much broader than, 'Oh kids can't play basketball, what's the big deal?' And I really wish more people were seeing and acknowledging what this trickle-down effect could do," White said.
Like Beaverton sports, Washington County's reopening plans are paused as cases rise, hospitalizations trend upward and contact tracing back to an initial source of infection proves challenging.
Both families said they felt comfortable with the school's safety measures and communication between coaches and families. They feel all families on their teams are looking out for one another.
Ultimately, they wish the district didn't make a decision for them.
"This weight is too heavy for these kids to bear. Just give us a choice," White said. "If you look at the numbers and the risk-reward ratio, it's safer right now for them to be playing sports. And there are so many safety protocols in place."
Jaekel said she understands she and other parents whose desires align with hers will take heat for pushing for her children to play sports because people have more pressing priorities and concerns right now.
She feels safe sending her son to practice and games because his age group is not at high risk and she is not concerned her family could develop complications from COVID-19 should her son become infected and pass the virus along.
"My family, we’re healthy, our parents don’t live with us," Jaekel said. "But I can see where that decision needs to be made by families if they have that particular situation going on where they have loved ones that they are in contact that are within that age group or in a compromised situation."
The OSAA board is expected to make an announcement on plans for the fall this week.
Meanwhile, some fall sports in Washington state, including football, have been pushed back to spring, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association announced Tuesday night. Fall sports in California are canceled until winter.
"They need to play. For kids' mental health and their happiness, they need to be able to get back out on the field and play their sport and do what they love during this time," Jaekel said.