Given the present circumstances, it’s pretty simple to understand the choice St. Stephens Indian School made to cancel their fall sports.

After a Special Board Meeting last Friday, Superintendent Frank No Runner announced the decision via the St. Stephens Indian School Facebook page. Along with no sports, students who attend will begin their school year with distance learning at least through the first quarter, which ends in mid-October.

According to Principal and Activities Director Matt Mortimore, whom WyoPreps spoke with on Monday, the decision was made quickly as teachers are returning to work. The school year was set to begin on Monday, Aug. 10 but that’s been delayed until Monday, Aug. 24.

“The main thing was the safety and well-being of not only our students but our community members because we do have a lot of students that live with their grandparents and elders of the community, so we had to take that into mind.”

Mortimore pointed to the simple fact that their county, Fremont, has the most COVID-related cases and deaths in the state, and that played a significant role in their decision to cancel fall sports.

Another factor Mortimore mentioned is that the tribe currently has a “stay-at-home” order, and when that will be lifted is unknown.

“Ultimately, we had to start planning and getting ready (for the school year), and the decision was made to cancel fall sports and plan for distance learning and move forward.”

As for reaction, Mortimore admitted it’s been mixed. He stated that some of the coaches have mentioned some of the kids are just disappointed.

“Some family members are very grateful because they are concerned about people getting sick, and the potential of people dying, so they were grateful we are taking the safety, precautionary measures.”

Mortimore added, “I don’t think there’s one correct answer in this, and that’s something we all need to kind of consider is that there isn’t a perfect answer or else the government and the governor and everyone would be giving it to us.”

Mortimore said they are in a unique situation, as they answer to not only the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) but also to the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Tribe. We’re a little different than other schools, where they just answer to WDE, but we have that trifecta of pleasing everybody.”

He is hoping the circumstances change for the better, soon, and as of now, St. Stephens will prepare for winter sports. A decision on that will be made in the coming weeks and months.

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