MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. — The Muskegon Heights Public School Academy System announced Monday that they are postponing all fall sports in their district until the spring to protect student athletes from COVID-19.
In Michigan, contact-based high school sports like football, volleyball and soccer have been cleared to take place in the fall as long as the athletes wear masks when they are unable to socially distance.
Muskegon Heights said in a news release they decided to postpone the fall season because their area has been "disproportionately impacted by the virus compared to the rest of Muskegon County with a positivity rate that is higher than the county average."
Muskegon Heights schools also decided to start the school year fully online.
“The same science and disparity that helped inform the decision to avoid student interaction at school also remains intact on volleyball courts and football fields," said Muskegon Heights Athletic Director Dalrecus Stewart.
Even though fall sports are proceeding in Michigan, health officials have advised against playing contact sports because they do not allow for social distancing.
“As difficult as it is to make the decision to delay this season, we will follow the guidelines and advice of our public health officials. We value our students and community so much that we are willing to postpone the season until it is safer for students to compete," said Muskegon Heights Superintendent Rene Garcia.
The Muskegon County Health Department Director Kathy Moore said the district is "taking steps that are right for them."
The Michigan High School Athletic Association, which organizes competitions in the state, said in a Sept. 3 news release that they would understand if some schools opt out of playing in the regular fall season this year.
"Schools may still play football in the spring, organizing a local or league schedule but no MHSAA tournament will be offered," the release said, specifically discussing football. "The ultimate authority is local control and schools may conduct a sport season at a time different than the MHSAA conducts its season-ending tournaments."
About 100 districts in Michigan still need to report to the MHSAA whether they plan to participate in the fall season. The first football games start on Friday, Sept. 18.
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