High school junior Isabella Earll says she had big goals for this year’s swimming season at Oak Forest High School.
“When you’re a junior in high school and in sports, the big thing is scholarships,” Earll said.
But swimming is now on hold at Oak Forest High School, Tinley Park High School, and Bremen High School after Bremen High School District 228 announced on Wednesday the suspension of four fall sports, including girls swimming, girls tennis, boys and girls cross country and boys and girls golf.
“We haven’t cancelled our sports,” superintendent Dr. Bill Kendall said. “We just want to ensure that our students and our faculty and everyone is safe.”
District 228 said it is following new guidelines from the Illinois Department of Public Health.
“It makes it really difficult for us to go to another school where we don’t know who these people are that our kids are competing against and try to figure out if there’s a positive case who we have to self-isolate,” Kendall said.
However, Earll told NBC 5 that swimmers can compete safely.
“We are in separate lanes. It’s not a contact sport. People can be put at the other end of the lanes, too,” Earll said.
Earll said she was expecting to drop her times, which would improve her chances of earning college scholarships.
On Friday afternoon, District 228 parents and students rallied in support of sports near the district administration building.
“We don’t understand why they felt they needed to pull sports from the kids when there was nothing behind it that made them feel they had to,” said organizer Carrie Boger. “There was no outbreaks. Nothing like that had occurred.”
Kendall said he is asking the students to be patient. He said if the district can participate in sports at some level, he is "absolutely" for that.
“We’re lucky that we have parents that care about their students and want them to participate and welcome their thoughts because we do value their opinions and thoughts and we use them, but I can’t forgo safety and guidance because somebody wants something,” Kendall said.