By Jeff Wagner

ANOKA, Minn. (WCCO) — In a partial about-face to a decision late last week, extra-curricular activities, including fall sports, for middle and high school students in the Anoka-Hennepin School District will continue instead of being canceled.

Monday night, the school board voted 5-1 in favor of the decision. It comes after the district announced days earlier that the rate of COVID-19 spread in its respective counties meant middle and high schools would transition to distance learning as well as a cancellation of extra-curricular activities.

Distance learning will continue as planned, with students making the transition on Wednesday, November 4. There will be no classes, in-person or virtually, on Nov. 2-3 as the schools prepare for the change.

Motivated to make a difference, student-athletes and their families gathered outside Anoka High School Monday in hopes of influencing the school board inside to reverse the district’s decision, even if it felt like a longshot. Some held signs saying reading “Let them play” and “Open the schools.”

“How did we get to this place? How did we get to this decision,” questioned parent Angela Brockel.

Brenda Wittek’s son is a football player for Anoka High School. She became emotional as she recalled her son’s sadness upon learning the season was cancelled last week.

“He came home and he hugged me and he was crying and it’s over,” she said.

State guidelines on COVID-19 response indicate that school districts must transition to distance learning for middle and high schools if the rate of community spread in its respective county is more than 30 positive cases per 10,000 people. According to Anoka-Hennepin’s COVID-19 tracker-, the rate of spread in Anoka County on Oct. 10 was 33.16 per 10,000 people. On Oct. 24, the rate of spread among the district’s employees was 30.56 per 10,000 people.

While parents and students were concerned about having to transition to distance learning, the cancellation of extracurricular activities, specifically sports, was clearly the main reason many showed up Monday. The meeting room had a limited capacity due to COVID-19 restrictions, leading the hallway outside the entrance to be packed with students and parents wearing masks.

Ultimately the board voted 5-1 in favor of continuing extra-curricular activities until they receive specific direction from the state. The board also asked that Superintendent David Law provide “details to the board and community regarding the local data Anoka-Hennepin uses to determine participation.”

The vote led to cheers, applause, and relief.

“It was a breath of fresh air, just seeing that we are kind of being heard and by the majority,” said Tyler Nebelung, senior at Anoka High School and captain on the football team. “I’m happy that we’re getting the chance to but we’ll see, nothing’s 100%.”

Jeff Wagner

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