Lindbergh will play football in Jefferson County, despite St. Louis County restrictions

The+rain-delayed+matchup+between+Lindbergh+High+School+and+Mehlville+High+School+Saturday%2C+Aug.+31%2C+2019%2C+had+all+the+ingredients+of+a+state+playoff+game%2C+despite+being+the+first+week+of+the+2019+season.+Mehlville+fell+to+Lindbergh+17-10.+Photo+by+Bill+Milligan.+

Photo by Bill Milligan

The rain-delayed matchup between Lindbergh High School and Mehlville High School Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019, had all the ingredients of a state playoff game, despite being the first week of the 2019 season. Mehlville fell to Lindbergh 17-10. Photo by Bill Milligan.

By Gloria Lloyd, News Editor

With high school athletes in high-contact sports barred from competing in St. Louis County, Lindbergh High School will compete in fall sports in Jefferson County, the district told parents Wednesday.

The Lindbergh Flyers will host high-frequency contact sports like football in Jefferson County, at Northwest High School, and will honor previously scheduled competitions outside St. Louis County.  The district did not announce a start date for games.

The move follows the Rockwood School District’s decision last week to start scheduling games in Jefferson County, which has no restrictions on youth sports or games. The decision to go ahead with fall sports this year instead of waiting until the spring follows protests by parents, including a rally outside County Executive Sam Page’s home in Creve Coeur attended by at least one Lindbergh football family. Page lifted some restrictions on youth sports Wednesday morning, but not for players and teams over the age of 14.

“As you know, our priority first and foremost is for students to return to in-person instruction,” Superintendent Tony Lake said in an email to parents co-authored by Principal Eric Cochran and Athletic Director Scott Luczak. “We are monitoring data on a daily basis and continually evaluating how we can do this safely and efficiently. Allowing athletic competitions is a first small step toward restoring normalcy for high school students, in an environment where it is easier to manage small cohort groups and limit student contacts.”

Parents and guardians for each student will be required to complete a new waiver for competition that releases the district of all liability if a student dies or is injured by COVID-19 during fall sports or district-sponsored activities, even if the cause is determined to be negligence by the school district. Participation is voluntary for athletes, the district emphasized. The waiver requires parents to check a box reading “I understand that the Lindbergh School District cannot prevent the possible transmission or contraction of COVID-19 for my child,” along with another box agreeing not to hold Lindbergh liable. Parents agree that their child will not participate if they are showing any symptoms of COVID-19.

Throughout this process, in every decision we make, our primary concern is the health and safety of student-athletes, coaches and staff, families and spectators,” the three Lindbergh officials said in the email. “This season will look different from any other, but we will do our best to make it fun, safe and exciting for our student-athletes.”

Page said Monday of school districts going outside the county to play football, “We hope that our school districts will follow our public health guidance and keep the kids safe, and we’ll work with all the school districts as they implement these plans and try to be successful.” He added Wednesday, “We realize that any limitation on youth sports is difficult for our youth sports athletes, parents and friends” and that county health officials were now working with athletic directors on guidelines.

He noted Wednesday that the positivity rate for teenagers ages 15-19, which had soared above 20 percent two weeks ago, is now down to around 7 percent. With that in mind, he allowed even high-school students to participate in moderate-contact sports like soccer.

If that downward trajectory continues, Page said, the county will be “actively working on a path forward that might include competitive games for those sports sometime this fall.”

Lindbergh officials said the district will go to Jefferson County because it’s best for the students to let them play sports, said the three LHS administrators. That echoes the arguments made by parents who have taken to the streets to protest the continuing youth sports restrictions in St. Louis County.

“We also know that athletics and activities play an important role in supporting our students’ social-emotional and mental wellbeing,” said Lake, Cochran and Luczak.

The decision has been made after “much thoughtful consideration, and in cooperation with the district’s legal counsel,” the trio of administrators said.

But the three officials added that programs “will continue to align with guidelines from St. Louis County.”

No spectators will be allowed at competitions hosted by Lindbergh or any other St. Louis County-based school district. Spirit groups like the cheerleaders and Flyerettes will not travel with the teams. Those actions are in accordance with St. Louis County directives and “will limit the number of contacts for our students and coaches during competition,” said Lake, Cochran and Luczak.

The games will be livestreamed so that family members, friends and supporters can watch remotely.

Bus transportation will be provided for all students to and from competitions. Students must wear masks on the bus at all times.

Students will also be required to wear masks at all times before and after competitions.

Coaches and officials will also have to wear masks at all times.

Students, coaches and officials will be required to complete a health screening before each competition.

Athletes, coaches and officials “must socially distance at all times when not actively competing,” the three officials mandated.