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St. Stephens Indian School has canceled all fall sports for 2020, including football, and will have students participate in remote learning until at least Oct. 16.
An announcement from St. Stephens Superintendent Frank No Runner announcing the changes was posted to the St. Stephens school’s Facebook page on Friday afternoon.
The post said the St. Stephens school board met Friday morning and decided to move forward with several changes to start the school year.
Those changes include no sports for high school or junior high students and online learning until at least Oct. 16.
In his post, No Runner said safety was the primary concern for the decision.
“It was hard to come to this decision, but we are thinking about student and staff safety, and for our elders, if we lose them we lose valuable cultural and traditional knowledge that cannot be replaced,” No Runner’s post said.
The full post is available here:
In an interview Friday afternoon with wyoming-football.com, St. Stephens football coach Billy Brost said he understood the decision but was also frustrated by it.
“I know they’re trying to do right by the kids and the teachers and the families, but it’s just heartbreaking to me that everyone else is going to be playing and we’re aren’t,” Brost said.
St. Stephens’ cross country and volleyball teams will also have their seasons canceled. The football team was scheduled to play in Class 1A nine-man, while volleyball was set to move from Class 1A to Class 2A this fall.
Per capita, Fremont County — where St. Stephens is located — has had more cases of COVID-19 and more COVID-related deaths than any other Wyoming county. Data from the Wyoming Department of Health shows, as of Friday, 411 laboratory-confirmed cases of the disease in the county. Of the 26 COVID-related deaths in Wyoming, 10 have been in Fremont County, the most of any Wyoming county.
Along with St. Stephens, three other high schools — Wyoming Indian, Fort Washakie and Arapaho Charter — also operate on the Wind River Reservation. Of those, Wyoming Indian is the only school to offer full varsity athletics. Other Fremont County schools, those off reservation land, include Lander, Riverton, Wind River, Shoshoni and Dubois.
Brost said while he will miss coaching, he will also miss teaching; he teaches social studies at the school.
“It’s not just about sports,” he said. “It’s so many things that high school kids should have the right to experience that they don’t now because of this pandemic. … My heart breaks for them because they so need that interaction.
“They’re being robbed of it, and fingers crossed that things calm down by the beginning of October so we can have kids in our classroom.”
This story will be updated as new information becomes available.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified No Runner’s position with St. Stephens schools. He is the superintendent.