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COVID-19 cancels football for 2 weeks at Skyline, threatens to shut down Olympus

Skyline senior Braxton Chipman looks for a pass as he is chased by Cedar senior Dallin Brooks during a high school football game between Cedar High School and Skyline High School at Skyline High School, Friday, Sept. 5, 2014.
Skyline senior Braxton Chipman looks for a pass as he is chased by Cedar senior Dallin Brooks during a high school football game between Cedar High School and Skyline High School at Skyline High School, Friday, Sept. 5, 2014.
Michelle Tessier, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — A COVID-19 outbreak among Skyline football players forced district officials to shut down the program for two weeks.

The fifth-ranked Eagles are undefeated (6-0), and they were scheduled to take on rival and No. 1 ranked Brighton (6-0) on Friday night.

Granite District spokesman Ben Horsley said they made the call, per Utah Department of Health guidelines, after four athletes enrolled in the school’s football class tested positive for COVID-19.

“If it was just the football team, it would be fine, but it’s a class that players attend,” Horsley said. “The health department guidelines say once there are three cases in a class, you’re supposed to dismiss the class for two weeks.”

The issue isn’t what’s being spread between students or even among athletes as they train or play. It’s what students and families are doing outside of school and activities that is threatening the future of both in-person school and the viability of extracurricular activities.

“What we’re seeing is not a lot of school level transmission,” Horsley said. “Instead, we’re seeing dances that are non-school sanctioned, robust family gatherings where they’re not following countywide guidelines. That’s exactly the problem. We’re doing all the right things at school, but if you walk off campus and you completely disregard health guidelines, then it doesn’t matter what we’re doing at school.”

He said Olympus High is two cases from going completely online, and if that happens, all extracurricular activities will also be suspended.

“We’re not going to go against the county health order,” he said. “It’s a privilege to go to school in the midst of a global pandemic, and we’re not acting like it.”

He said the first weekend of school there were “50-plus groups of seniors spending the night on the football fields” at two different Granite District high schools.

“Parents are calling us, getting mad at us, but these aren’t school activities,” he said. “That football field is not guarded 24 hours a day. We’re throwing our arms up.”

Horsley said some parents will want to argue that the health department guidelines are too strict, as they have argued in both Jordan and Canyons district situations. In both of those cases, parents won concessions, and despite going online this week because of an outbreak that numbered more than 70 as of Friday, Corner Canyon High will still allow most sports and activities to continue. Several sports, including volleyball and cross country, are suspended for 14 days because of outbreaks and exposure impacting members of those teams.

Brighton High, also in Canyons District, is over the 15 case threshold, but it continues in-person classes and activities. That is not an option for Olympus, which had 13 cases as of Sunday night, according to Horsley.

“We’re not going to defy the health order,” he said, noting parents in both Skyline and Olympus communities would be receiving a letter from district officials explaining the repercussions of both the class and overall school thresholds. “How do you go against that? Especially after you tell your teachers that’s what you’re going to do.”