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An all-community rally is planned Tuesday in support of high school athletics and the rehiring of athletic directors in the Central Kitsap School District.

Central Kitsap School District coaches, parents and student-athletes will gather for a 4 p.m. Tuesday rally at Jenne Wright administration building in Silverdale to advocate for the return of sports and athletic directors in the Central Kitsap School District.

The community rally at the district’s parking lot is a response to the district’s furlough of its athletic directors, Bill Baxter at Central Kitsap High, Nate Andrews at Olympic High and Lauren Daniels at Klahowya Secondary School, and it’s non-responsiveness to a commitment to the athletic school year.

“We just want to be heard,” said Central Kitsap High varsity softball coach Courtney Cotter, who was one of the organizers of the rally. “We feel the district is undervaluing sports and that these kids deserve to be out there (playing).”

Klahowya varsity volleyball coach, and middle school math teacher, Wendy Kraft said she is planning on attending the rally and hopes many others will join her.

“I’m hoping to see a massive attendance by our student-athletes and their parents,” Kraft said, adding she does believe the district wants to listen to the community. “If that can be represented, especially the middle schools, I just don’t know how you cannot keep responding.

“What is going on with athletics? I would love to see coaches there (at the rally). What is it going to look like from the student-athlete side.”

Klahowya head coach Wendy Kraft, left, talks to her team including Katie Cooper, center, Anna Bell and Rachel Bailey, right, during a timeout in their match against Port Angeles Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2019, at Klahowya Secondary School. Klahowya won 3-0.
(Annette Griffus/West Sound SportsPlus)

Kraft is on the district’s Return to Play Committee, a committee that was formed in the spring after the state-mandated lockdown in March. The committee didn’t have its first meeting until Sept. 24. Its purpose was to be in communication with the district, public health officials to prepare and plan for the return of athletics in the 2020-21 school year but that hasn’t happened.

The two biggest contentions coaches have with the school district is its lack of discussion health guidelines coaches and athletes will need to follow moving forward. The second is its dismissal of its ADs.

Kraft said coaches and athletes need the experience and knowledge the athletic directors bring to all sports, but also guidance in what she is still hoping will be a return to athletics this school year. Coaching staffs as well as the district’s athletic trainers and student-trainers need to be informed, trained and paperwork needs to be distributed to athletes so they are ready to go if given the green light by public health officials, she said.

“We are wiling to do the work without pay to prepare for that and hope for that,” Kraft said. “That is what we can do. That is the only control I have and everything (else) is out of my hands.”

Cotter said sports are more about life lessons learned and memories made for student-athletes than many people realize.

“These kids deserve better,” she said. “We can take the precautions that are necessary to do what we do.”

Cotter added she sees the athletes suffering due to forced isolation.

“We are willing to come together as a community to take the steps necessary to get them out there,” she said. “We care for the kids.”

Kraft said she would rather plan ahead and have a strategy in play than wait until the start of athletics and play catch-up in terms of preparation for changing guidelines.

Central Kitsap's Gabby Lazo gets a high-five after her hit and advance to third base during a non-league softball game against Olympic on Friday, March 15, 2019, at Gene Lobe Fields at the Kitsap Fairgrounds. Olympic won 16-2. (Annette Griffus/West Sound SportsPlus)
Central Kitsap’s Gabby Lazo gets a high-five after her hit and advance to third base during a non-league softball game against Olympic on Friday, March 15, 2019, at Gene Lobe Fields at the Kitsap Fairgrounds. Olympic won 16-2. (Annette Griffus/West Sound SportsPlus)

She would also like the one question answered by the district that has not been addressed.

“Why do we have to wait to return to play until all students are returned to the building?” Kraft said. “Why not return when our metrics say we can? I don’t think that has ever been responded to.”

Kraft said when the decision by the district was made to furlough the ADs, it was as if the district was admitting there would be no athletics. Cotter agreed, adding the athletic directors are the voice in each building for the athletes and coaches and without them there is no pipeline of information.

“We feel like it makes a statement on how they feel about sports,” Cotter said, adding there is genuine concern athletics will be cut throughout the district. “We want our ADs back. They have done so much for the athletes and the families and the coaches. We need someone that’s in there fighting for us.”

For Kraft an answer to play or not to play would be better than continued unanswered questions.

“Tell us now so we can help people start to get over that because it’s hard to keep hoping and not know what the outcome is going to be,” Kraft said.

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