The Jordan Baseball Park also known as the "Mini Met." Photo: Carlos Gonzalez
Gov. Tim Walz, a former high school coach, gave a heartfelt but bleak assessment Monday of the chances of prep sports resuming this spring and indicated an answer about what happens next for Minnesota schools will come later this week.
Those holding onto hope for a different outcome received no assurances, only sympathies, when Walz addressed those topics during Monday’s news conference.
Walz said, “I think it’s unlikely” that Minnesota schools, closed since March 25 in favor of distance learning to help slow the spread of COVID-19, will reopen in the 2019-20 academic year. Walz said he will make a decision about schools “probably sometime this week.” Currently, May 4 is the earliest student could have returned to school buildings.
As schools go, so do high school activities.
Erich Martens, Minnesota State High School League executive director, said earlier this month, “if distance learning is extended, in many other states where that’s happened the high school leagues have followed suit with canceling activities. If that happens here, the board of directors and staff will give strong consideration to canceling activities.”
Walz said, “I think anything you play close together where you’re touching the same ball or you’re in large groups, that’s going to be hard. At this point in time, I’m not super optimistic about it.”
Walz, a former Mankato West High School assistant football coach, added, “To me, I say this as someone who has been around as a high school coach for all those years, this breaks my heart.”
He indicated concerns beyond the spring season, which ends mid-June.
“We’re thinking now long-term on schools,” Walz said. “What does long-term distance learning look like? We’ve got some real, ‘Wow,’ moments in our educational plan and we’ve got some real, ‘Whoa.’ This will have decades-long impact on our children with this interruption if we don’t get this right.”
Last week, Wisconsin and Iowa announced school closures would remain in effect through the current academic year.
Those decisions came after a high school league video conference call last Thursday morning, when the league stated Minnesota was one of 30 in the country still considering a spring season. Another 21 associations had shut down.
However, growing logistical challenges for spring tournaments include the University of Minnesota telling the league that “all facilities are closed for non-curricular use” in May and June.
That means the inability to host state tournament contests at Siebert Field, which has held the Class 3A baseball quarterfinals and semifinals, or the Baseline Tennis Center for the boys’ tennis tournament.