Pritzker should close schools until August
While Illinois not-so-patiently awaits the fate of the remainder of the 2019-20 school year, and the high school spring sports season, the number of other states around the country closing schools for the rest of the academic year due to the COVID-19 pandemic increases daily.
Mississippi became the 21st state Tuesday to end the academic year, according to a list published by the Woodland Hills (Calif.) Journal. That does not include New York City, which has closed its schools, although New York state has yet to do so.
Other states have extended a decision on closing dates to early May or May 15, while Nebraska has extended its date to May 31.
Despite Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot's comment Monday that Illinois' stay-at-home order will likely be extended beyond April 30, Gov. J.B. Pritzker has dodged the issue of closing schools.
As painful as this is to say for a high school sports writer, the time is now for Pritzker to do just that -- close schools for the academic year.
It wouldn't be a popular decision, that's for sure, but it would be the right decision.
For the future.
If we have any chance of salvaging summer and returning to normalcy by fall, shut schools down until August.
"For planning purposes it would be nice to have some concrete answers," said Burlington Central athletic director Steve Diversey, a Huntley resident whose freshman son is on the track team.
"There are decisions that have to be made soon by ADs, coaches and parents. My gut tells me we're not coming back but if we do and have to put everybody in the building in masks and gloves, we've lost control.
"There's still a potential chance to come back, though, and I think that's why (Pritzker) is holding off. As long as there's a chance, kids are still motivated to do their school work and athletes are still working to stay in shape."
Graduation ceremonies have been postponed and proms canceled. Why would anyone think for one second we could send 500, 1,000, 2,000, 3,000 kids back into a school building anytime soon, much less to athletic events, without risking virus spread?
"It's important we follow the state and district recommendations," said Dundee-Crown AD Steve Gertz, whose senior daughter Caleigh plays on the Chargers' softball team.
"For us to move forward or not is a concern for everyone. What's for sure is we will no longer be under the normal, and we may never be again."
But if we are ever going to approach "normal" again, it's unreasonable to think that will happen if thousands of kids return to school in May and hundreds return to the athletic field.
"It would be great to see all of our athletes get back out there," Gertz said. "I want to see it be a safe environment for all the kids, not one of let's just go back out there to play a game."
Games are, as they should be, secondary to lives.
That's why it's time for Pritzker to be the leader he professes to be and end the uncertainty concerning the future of school and sports for this spring.
"It's a tough call. Nobody wants to be 'that guy,' " Diversey said.
But it's high time Pritzker become that guy.