Atlanta Public Schools still planning for football, despite plan for virtual classes

Atlanta Public Schools is still hoping to have football this fall even as the district considers starting classes virtually

Atlanta Public Schools is still planning to play sports during the fall, even as the district considers a plan to start the school year with online classes.

"As of right now, we're preparing as though fall sports will still go forward," said APS director of athletics Jasper Jewell. "Our executive director of the GHSA, Dr. Robin Hines, still anticipates we will move forward with fall sports. We will continue to be good stewards, and we're going to prepare accordingly."

The district's new superintendent released her plan for the start of the school year on Friday. To keep students and staff safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Lisa Herring is proposing pushing back the start of school by two weeks and holding at least the first 9 weeks of classes virtually.

Jewell says the district believes they can still play sports, including football, even if that plan is implemented. He said there are discussions about having school activity buses go through neighborhoods to take student athletes to and from practice, and possibly having food for players at the schools.

Jewell acknowledged that, if COVID-19 cases continue to climb, there will have to be talk of delaying or even canceling fall high school sports. His concerns about the safety of students, coaches and others involved in high school sports are top of mind.

"I am extremely worried," said Jewell. "With me being a product of Atlanta Public Schools, this is more than just a director of athletics job for me. This is home. I envision myself as that kid on field, or that coach on the field. I was both at one point."

Jewell says he's been in touch with Dr. Herring, who is supporting his plans and providing insight. He says APS football coaches have had "mixed" reactions, with some glad to know the plan going forward and others concerned about safety.

"I'm worried about the safety, the welfare, the well-being of our student athletes, our coaches, our athletic directors and our school administrators," said Jewell. "At the same time, GHSA is our governing body. We must continue to comply within the rules they've set forth. As it stands right now, we're going to continue to prepare as though we're going to have fall sports, but we're going to proceed with extreme caution."