New high school athletic director announces regulations on mask-wearing, guest lists
By Holly Dillemuth, Ashland.news
New COVID-19 guidelines kick into effect today, Feb. 11, at Ashland High School, including a limit on four guests per athlete at games.
Patrick Grady, who started as Ashland High’s new athletic and activities director in November, laid out the regulations in the Ashland School District’s newsletter earlier this week. Coaches will collect a “roster” list of up to four guests for each athlete so there’s a seamless process at the gate, according to Grady.
With winter sports in full swing and spring sports gearing up at Ashland High, the new COVID-19 regulations outline how students and their families can navigate practices and games in coming weeks.
Visiting teams can have two visiting guests attend the game, with appropriate reservations. No concessions will be sold, and masks must continue to be worn to and from events, or when not exerting themselves.
“We can’t have everybody yet,” Grady said of game attendance, “but eventually, we would like to, as long as conditions continue to improve for us, we’d like to keep opening more and more to the public, and we’re hopeful that before the end of the season, that we’ll have the gym open to everybody and have full capacity again. We have to wait and see, we have to continue to be flexible.”
The following protocols are also in place:
— Everyone over the age of 5 must wear a mask at all times, according to the new rules, with the exception of athletes and officials physically exerting themselves.
— Masks must also be worn on the bench, in the huddle, while walking to the locker room, and while entering or leaving the district facilities.
“Thank you for your understanding and compliance as we implement these COVID-19 changes,” Grady said in the written statement to families. “We will continue to monitor pandemic conditions and revisit protocols with the expectation that the above measures will be lifted as soon as it is safe to do so.”
Games can be paused to allow for compliance with said rules, and participants who do not comply can be taken out of the game, according to Grady.
In an in-person interview at Ashland High’s turf field, Grady told Ashland.news he understands limitations of any kind can be frustrating.
“It’s been challenging for everybody, everywhere,” Grady said. “Just the challenge of the day-to-day change.”
But, he added, hopefully, “We’re starting to see that we’re slowly turning a corner, hopefully.”
At the peak of the omicron surge, the Ashland School District had 87 staff members out, and student absences at 14%. As of Wednesday, staff absences were closer to 30, and student absences have declined to under 10% on average, district Superintendent Samuel Bogdanove reported earlier this week.
Grady took the athletics helm shortly before the AHS transitioned to distance learning for two weeks to mitigate the impact of a staff shortage due to COVID-19.
“We needed to take a break,” he said. “We had to really take a look at what we could or could not offer, always coming from the standpoint of safety first. We had some limitations, we had restrictions for our athletes and activities to be able to continue.”
As Grady was able to see what was happening with the omicron variant and what the guidelines were coming out of the Oregon Health Authority and Jackson County Public Health, he said the school district was able to open limited practices and adjust back to conditions that were closer to pre-distance learning.
“A lot of our teams have different types of communication platforms, whether it’s Remind or TeamSnap, so that that way they can stay in contact,” he said.
Navigating COVID-19 regulations is nothing new for Grady, who comes to Ashland High after serving as athletic director for North Medford High. He’s also taught biology and chemistry at Crater High, and prior to that, served as a dean at Hedrick Middle School.
Southern Oregon sports roots
Drawn to the smaller, 5A classification, and a community with lots of tradition and community, Grady said he’s excited to become part of it.
“We’re fortunate to have several family friends that have had students either graduate already through the Ashland School District or are currently students,” he said, of he and his wife.
“There’s always been this wonderful, positive story that we would get about Ashland,” he added.
Posing for photographs near the 50-yard line of the school’s turf field on Thursday, under especially sunny skies for February, Grady’s beamed behind his mask.
Grady and his wife moved to southern Oregon in the 2007-08 school year, by way of San Diego, to raise their young family and set down roots. Over the years, he’s coached wrestling and track, just an extension, he says, of being in the classroom teaching. He also earned his master’s degree at Southern Oregon University.
His philosophy is education-focused, and he believes that school’s a great opportunity to determine who you are and what path you want to take in life. Whether that’s to continue in school, learn a trade, or go into the military, he believes the groundwork is laid in getting connected at school, and sports and activities are important parts of that.
“As far as I’m concerned, athletics are just an extension of the classroom,” Grady said. “There are lessons that are learned in the classroom that will then carry over out onto the … field, there’s team building, there’s problem solving, there’s critical thinking, there’s perseverance … dealing with a win, dealing with a bad grade.”
Grady hopes to make it to as many athletic events in-person this spring as possible.
He touted Ashland High’s State Champion water polo team, and their accomplishments this past year. He also talked up the high school’s wrestling team and swimming district meets this weekend, and hopes Ashland High is well-represented in each group at state championships.
He’s also very proud of the boy’s basketball program, which recently won on Crater High’s home court, especially coming off a two-weeks of distance learning.
Grady isn’t one to focus only on athletics, though. He also oversees more than 35 clubs in his role and believes all students can find one that fits their interests and strengths.
“There’s something for everybody,” Grady said. “I would hope that our goal is that we can find something for everybody to get connected to, whether it’s athletics, whether it’s theater and drama, whether it’s singing, orchestra or band.”
Email Ashland.news reporter Holly Dillemuth at email@example.com.