A few days ago the chances for winter sports in Chicago Public Schools seemed incredibly bleak. The district hasn’t had any in-person school days and hasn’t even let sports teams hold contact days, something suburban schools and private schools in the city have done for months.
So while CPS sent confusing signals on Monday night and Tuesday morning, both statements were more positive than many CPS coaches and players were expecting.
The saga began Monday night, when new CPS Sports Administration Director David Rosengard responded to a Sun-Times inquiry about winter sports planning.
“At this time CPS Sports Administration is proceeding to create guidelines for winter sports including basketball,” Rosengard wrote in an email. “We are anticipating receiving additional guidelines from the State of Illinois and the IHSA soon for permission to proceed with a start date of winter sports on Nov. 16. Our CPS winter sports guidelines will need approvals from the City of Chicago Department of Public Health and our CPS Office of Student Health and Welfare. We are optimistic that we can meet the Nov. 16 start date for winter sports once we receive the necessary approvals. All decisions take into consideration the health and welfare of our student athletes, coaches and support staff.”
CPS Communications sent a new statement Tuesday morning. It seemed intended to temper any expectations raised by Rosengard’s statement.
“The district has not yet made any decisions on the possibility of winter sports and continues to plan for a variety of scenarios to ensure we are prepared for all possible outcomes,” CPS spokesperson Emily Bolton said. “Our final decision will be made in accordance with state guidelines and informed by our close partners at the Chicago Department of Public Health who will determine if it is safe to proceed with winter sports. We are deeply sympathetic to the student-athletes who we know are eager to get back on the court, and we will keep families apprised of any developments.”
CPS Sports and CPS leadership might not be on the same page. It also is possible that preparations are fully underway but the deeply political nature of the decision means CPS CEO Janice Jackson wants to keep things under wraps as long as possible.
“Our students that play winter sports are just anxious to get back at it,” Young boys basketball coach Tyrone Slaughter said. “Our kids have seen the suburban kids and private schools practicing and just want
to do that in the best and safest manner, if possible.”
Sources who have seen the IHSA’s proposed guidelines for winter sports say there are strict rules for cleaning and time limits that may stretch the resources of even the largest and richest high schools. Clearly, those rules would be an even bigger
challenge for Public League schools with just one gym.
Slaughter hasn’t seen the guidelines but is aware of the rules surrounding shootouts, which require three hours between games.
“It’s likely going to require a lot of flexibility for everyone,” Slaughter said. “I know that we will all do whatever is required. We know it may mean programs practicing on rotating days. Weekends and early in the morning before remote learning may be a part of it.
“But my biggest hope is just that we can get back in whatever form that is that can be done safely. Everything is a day-to-day thing now.”