HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Department of Education (DOE) is requiring public high school student-athletes, and anyone involved with sports, to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Officials are delaying fall season until late September to give people a chance to comply with the new rule.
No vaccination, no participation. That’s the directive passed down Wednesday. Students and coaches will have to show proof they’ve gotten the shot in order to play sports this year.
For the second year in a row, football fields and gyms are empty as the new school year kicks off.
Rising case counts led the DOE to delay the fall sports season until September 24, giving student-athletes and adults working in athletics a chance to get vaccinated.
Interim Superintendent Keith Hayashi released the following statement:
This decision was not made lightly because we know the important role athletics play in a well-rounded education, but we can’t jeopardize the health and safety of our students and communities. We saw over the weekend the impact that just one potential case can have on sports, teams, students and families. The alternative is canceling the season outright, which we don’t want to have to do; so we are implementing this layered plan prioritizing vaccinations.— Interim Superintendent Keith Hayashi
“Honestly, I felt very devastated for my players and their families,” Kahuku head football coach Sterling Carvalho said. “Because they already had to go through this a year ago.”
The good news is, unlike last year, it’s only a delay.
“At least now, the officials that were putting this together realize that we can push back our season for several more weeks and still have a full season,” Carvalho explained.
But, he said, there are still unanswered questions. Mainland schools are already trying to recruit some student-athletes.
“As we speak, and hours ago, there are a lot of schools from California, Washington and especially Utah calling our families, calling our boys, ’cause they know how important it is for them to be playing, and they want the Hawaii players,” Carvalho explained.
“Communities want to know, if we push this back, do we still have a full season? Do we still have an OIA championship to play for? Do we still have a state championship to play for? If they can still give us that, we can still keep a lot of our student-athletes here in Hawaii.”
Potentially losing out on another season could hamper an athlete’s ability to get a scholarship and go to college.
“Kids need to play in order to get those scholarships, and if players don’t play again, that’s two years — that’s a whole varsity career for some of these players that they’ll be losing out on.”
The other issue is that not everyone believes in getting vaccinated.
“It’s going to be a family personal decision,” Carvalho said. “That I cannot fault if they decide to go, or not play, or not coach. That’s the hard thing right now that a lot of people are trying to sort out.”
The decision to get the vaccine could impact teams and sports come late September.
“If not enough students come out or get vaccinated, it’s almost like not having enough players to come out for a team,” McKinley High School Athletic Director Bob Morikuni said.
According to the DOE, exemptions may be granted for religious or medical reasons, but people would be required to submit COVID-19 tests twice weekly.
People would have to get the first Pfizer shot by August 20 in order to meet the September 24 deadline. For now, everything is on hold.
“What we got from the superintendent is everything pretty much shuts down,” Morikuni said. “No practices, no conditioning, nothing.”