INDIANAPOLIS — It's an agonizing decision for a mom. She found out her son won't be allowed to participate in extracurricular activities, including sports, if he chooses to do e-learning rather than return to the classroom as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
It's a new Franklin Township school district policy. It's a decision this mom is pushing to change.
The school year at Franklin Central High School has yet to begin, but outside the building the football team is hard at work. It's a team that may look a little different this year as students who choose the e-learning option for school won't be allowed to participate.
"It's devastating," Marissa Dobbs said. "My son lives and breathes football. He loves it."
Dobbs said her son is entering his junior year of high school. She doesn't feel comfortable sending him back to the classroom just yet.
"Everybody but me in my household is immune-compromised," Dobbs said. "My son has asthma, my husband is diabetic, my mother is elderly and my other son has immune issues."
Dobbs said she thinks football would be a way to keep her kids involved while staying safe.
"They are using social distancing. The kids are all in their own pod depending on their position and if they can't be six feet apart they are wearing masks," Dobbs said. "They are not utilizing the weight room or the locker rooms. They have to take their clothes home to wash them and they are outdoors so that's less of a chance of getting it versus being confined in a classroom."
The Indiana High School Athletic Association released guidelines saying students who choose e-learning are still eligible to participate as long as the classes are taught by teachers at their school. The IHSAA also said school districts can set their own standards and require in-person learning for participation. That's what Franklin Central leaders have decided to do.
IHSAA assistant commissioner Paul Neidig earlier this week issued the following statement:
If a school decides to offer virtual, distance learning, e-learning or online courses that are taught by that school’s teachers, a student athlete can attend 100% of the day virtually and still participate in education-based athletics. However, local control decisions permit a school to set a standard above the standard set by the IHSAA. For instance, some schools still require in building attendance for participation.
"It breaks my heart, it truly does," Dobbs said. "I don't sleep at night because I know how much him and my younger son love football and sports and he's worked so hard for this. He's been in sports since he was 5 years old in football and he works hard so I would hate to see him have to miss that."
Dobbs said she's hoping district leaders will reconsider.
A spokesperson for the district declined an interview but released a statement saying their decision was in accordance with policy and past practices.
Here is the full statement from Franklin Township schools:
FTCSC is committed to offering our families the option of returning to school in person, or continuing their education through FTCSC online. In accordance with policy and past practice, students that enroll in our online learning option cannot participate in FTCSC extracurricular activities.