CPS will continue to play fall sports, releases fan policies for road games

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COLUMBIA - Despite Monday's Columbia Public Schools Board of Education vote to begin the school year with fully online classes, CPS will continue to play fall sports.

The apparent contradiction in allowing in-person, contact sports but not allowing in-person, socially distanced classes has been recognized and discussed by CPS leaders.

CPS Superintendent Dr. Peter Stiepleman addressed this concern at Monday's CPS board meeting, referencing "a significant volume of research" showing that involvement in extracurricular activities contributes to improved attendance, academic engagement and improved behavior.

"What we're saying here is that if we can keep kids engaged in their online learning... If they know that they won't play unless they complete their work, [then] that is a mighty incentive for us as well," Stiepleman said.

Originally, MSHSAA rules were not going to allow schools with fully online classes to participate in fall sports. MSHSAA changed those rules in early August.

This is the language of MSHSAA's current guidelines for opening sports and activities.

"Participation in practices or competitions is a local school decision that must be based on the guidelines of the school's health department and/or any statewide health department guidance or restrictions. The style of education will not impact a school's ability to practice or compete during the 2020-21 school year."

CPS does have restrictions in place on fan attendance at home games. Each student-athlete is allowed one spectator ticket. There are no general admission tickets sold.

The Rock Bridge football team will travel to Sedalia to play Smith-Cotton this Friday night. It will be the first road game of the football season for a CPS high school.

Rock Bridge Athletic Director Michael McGinty said varsity players and cheerleaders for both teams will receive three player cards, for a total of 250 spectators.

McGinty also said all Central Missouri Activities Conference (CMAC) away games will follow the same ticket procedures, and all non-conference games will be decided on a week-to-week basis. 

"The player card system only works for our conference. It just so happens that Sedalia [Smith-Cotton] is in our conference so it makes it nice, makes it simple," McGinty said. "For all other travel, for all sports, we're subject to the host team's guidelines."

Rock Bridge parents can expect an email Wednesday night with more information.