While rest of Nevada starts prep sports, Clark County expected to remain closed

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Wade Vandervort

Liberty students cheer as their team scores against Coronado during a game at Liberty High School Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019.

Published Wed, Feb 17, 2021 (3:35 p.m.)

Updated Wed, Feb 17, 2021 (5:23 p.m.)

High school sports throughout Nevada are back — just not for schools in the Clark County School District.

Gov. Steve Sisolak said sports regulated by the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association can return to practices and games after nearly a year of being dormant because of the pandemic. Prep sports paused in mid-March during the statewide shutdown.

The NIAA will be tasked with coming up with the framework to relaunch, which Sisolak says must include weekly testing for players and coaches. The NIAA says this could happen as quickly as Thursday, which could lead to a five-week high school football season starting March 6.

However, in the Las Vegas area sports will remain shuttered because there’s no immediate plan to bring high school students back to in-person learning — a requirement for having high school sports.

Bart Thompson, the association’s executive director, said CCSD has previously given notice that it won’t participate in the fall or winter sports season. Based on conversations with CCSD leadership, Thompson said he doesn’t expect a late push from officials to change course.

So, while the other 16 districts across the state have a condensed fall season, CCSD — where most of the population is — will not.

“It’s up to our membership to decide which sports to participate in,” Thompson said.

The NIAA will stick to a plan released a few months ago calling for six weeks of competition for each of the three seasons. The winter season statewide won’t happen, while sports in the fall would be contested starting early next month.

“From our hearts, we are sorry. Time has simply run out,” said Donnie Nelson, the NIAA’s assistant director, when addressing athletes who compete in the winter sports. “We certainly feel for our seniors.”

The only season remaining for Las Vegas athletes is the spring — baseball, track, swimming, boys golf, boys volleyball and softball. But, again, schools would have to break from remote learning for consideration.

CCSD students in pre-K through third grade have the option to return to a hybrid in-person model beginning March 1. While plans have been discussed for other grades, nothing is concrete.

The School Board last week took public comment from high school students and their families with pleas to allow them to return to campus and competition. The comments lasted for more than an hour.

Ryan Anderson, who told the board he was a parent and a coach, emphasized the emotional toll on young athletes who have been forced to the sidelines.

“Our kids need to be playing sports. I’ve had numerous athletes call me in tears — big, burly senior boys, call me in tears to let me know that their lives are in shambles because they’re missing out on their senior year of athletics,” he said.

CCSD parent Bonnie Lolly shared a similar message about her son, who plays baseball.

“Last March, after months of daily practices and workouts, the boys on Centennial varsity team showed up for their very first varsity season and they were told there would be no game and no season. It was devastating,” she said. “Now, as a senior, this is it. He will never get this back again. He already lost last year. Please, please let these kids play their sports. They have missed out on so much already.”

Nevada is one of fewer than 10 states to not conduct a single high school event during the pandemic, which drew much criticism from families and players. Sisolak heard the complaints, saying, “I know this has been difficult,” in his address today.

Noncontact youth sports outside of the NIAA have been up and running since October. Today’s announcement permits the contact sports of football, wrestling and basketball to also resume. But that’s exclusively sports regulated by the NIAA, meaning contact sports on the club level will remain sidelined until at least May 1.

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