By Kati Weis

DENVER (CBS4) – After months of being shut down, the state’s largest school district is allowing high school sports practices to resume, but with several safety precautions in place. For at least the next two weeks, teammates in the Denver Public Schools system will only be allowed to do conditioning workouts, they can’t share equipment.

Football players for Manual High School line up to begin conditioning exercises on the first day back at practice since the pandemic hit. (credit: Kati Weis, CBS4)

It was a day that couldn’t come soon enough for some players and coaches.

“Feels great, this is probably the longest I’ve been away from football since I was 6,” said Manual High School football coach Ben Butler.

Manual High School’s football quarterback Donovan Jenkins, 16, told CBS4 that being able to go back to practice means the world to him.

“We’ve just all been waiting and wanting to get back on this field,” Jenkins said. “It’s been kind of hard missing out on all the practice we usually get.”

According to the manager of high school athletics for Denver Public Schools, Mark Randall, all but one high school is rolling out athletics practices this week. The only high school not opening practices is Bruce Randolph High School.

Randall said for athletes to attend practices, they must pass temperature checks and answer a series of questions about any symptoms of the coronavirus. Students are also required to pre-register for practice for contact tracing purposes.

Coach Ben Butler takes temperatures of team players before practice begins. (credit: Kati Weis, CBS4)

This is considered phase 1 of reopening sports. School officials hope to move into phase 2 by July 20. In phase 2, sharing equipment could be allowed, like passing a ball.

Some other school districts, like Jefferson County Public Schools, are already on phase 2. Jeffco started phase 1 on June 22.

Randall said it was important for DPS to move at a slower pace.

“As we’re packed more densely in the metro area, we feel like we have to take it a little bit slower, be a little bit more cautious,” Randall said. “We all want to have fall athletics, but we have to take it one step at a time.”

Asked whether a full fall season will be able to take place, Randall said he wants to be optimistic, however there will be complications.

“Just as an example, there’s one school, one program — one sports program, somebody contracts the virus, passes it to several of the classmates, who possibly put the coaches in danger, and then all of a sudden you have to put those kids in quarantine for 14 days, that takes that team out of a non-conference schedule that’s already been set, so now it becomes a logistical nightmare,” Randall said. “We’re hoping it’s going to happen, we love our kids, we love our students, we want them back, we want our teachers back, but we want to do it the right way.”

Coach Butler said he’s appreciative of the precautions.

“It’s just important to make sure that we are getting kids in shape, and following all of the guidelines so we can keep having practice,” said Butler. “That’s a big goal for me, coming back is one thing, staying back is something that I think is really important to our kids.”

Meanwhile, athletes are just happy to be with their teams again.

“Looking forward to just being back out here, to be able to play the sport I’ve known and loved since I was little,” Jenkins said. “It’s been hard to not be able to go outside and just run around with some friends and play football.”

Kati Weis

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