CINCINNATI — Cincinnati Public Schools athletics programs are on pause effective immediately, the district said Tuesday morning.
CPS student-athletes are able to practice at their home schools but not move into the next phase, which would include interscholastic competition.
The CPS board of education decided Monday night to move forward with a distance-learning model for the first five weeks of school with classes to resume remotely Aug. 24 during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cincinnati Public Schools athletics manager Josh Hardin told WCPO Tuesday morning the district will evaluate the situation with the pandemic Sept. 14, with the possibility of reopening athletics for interscholastic competition Sept. 28.
"It's really about keeping the hope alive for the kids," Hardin said.
"More than anything, if we don't have competition right now, we have opportunities for the kids to compete internally with each other, versus each other. At this point, we're blessed to be able to give these kids the opportunities to connect with leaders, mentors, role models (and) coaches, to have a positive mindset around things and to have the opportunity to let them know that this is not forever. We will get onto the other side of this."
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Walnut Hills football coach Gerry Beauchamp told WCPO the Eagles plan to have an intrasquad scrimmage within its own program Friday. He said Walnut Hills is moving forward and grateful for each day of practice.
"I certainly understand the decision," Beauchamp said. "It's just unfortunate — the kids want to play. I feel bad for the kids, but at the same time, with me, my No. 1 priority has always been safety first. That's always been the first thing."
Beauchamp sent a message to his players Monday saying it's business as usual with practice. He addressed it with his players after the first practice Tuesday. He said it's a day-by-day approach.
"It's kind of one of those things where it's like, we are going to keep rolling with it," Beauchamp said. "I don't think anything during these times is set in stone. We will keep rolling with it and go."
Beauchamp said he's not thinking far ahead regarding a potential October season schedule. He's simply focused on keeping the players engaged with the sport with the health and safety guidelines in place.
"These kids want to play football," Beauchamp said.
Hughes football coach Chris Mobley told the Big Red this is some adversity but that the big picture looks bright for the team.
"We will continue to practice and keep everyone's spirits up," Mobley said. "Psychologically this is going to hit hard so it's my responsibility to be there for them and help them get through these tough times. Our staff will do our best to be there for everyone mentally and emotionally."
Withrow athletic director Jonas Smith has told the school's fall sports teams and coaches to look at the bigger picture with safety at the forefront.
"I agree wholeheartedly with the district's decision," Smith said. "They all need to keep practicing and the district will reassess this on Sept. 14. We may have an opportunity to start in-school classes and competition the week of Sept. 28 if things look better with the pandemic."
Under the plan, CPS officials said Monday night will review community health data during the week of Sept. 14, poring over Cincinnati case numbers, the city's positivity rate and Hamilton County's status on the Ohio Public Health Advisory System.
"In addition, district athletics administrators will work with all schools, athletic directors and coaches to provide opportunities to fully highlight and promote student-athletes with aspirations to play sports in college," CPS said in a statement. "This includes, but is not limited to, assisting with highlight tapes, organization of live streamed internal CPS events/combines and extended communication with college coaches."
CPS will host an athletics town hall meeting for parents, students and coaches at 12:30 p.m. Friday.
"We are going to weather this storm, and we are going to weather it together," Hardin said. "We're all going to come out stronger on the other side of this. It's tough right now."