UNION COUNTY — Some area schools are putting forward a proposal to alter some basketball rules to make the game safe enough to resume play during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The proposal would be geared toward keeping players spread out during games by taking measures such as prohibiting full-court press and zone defense tactics, and games would be livestreamed for fans in lieu of playing front of a crowd.

“We’re trying to work with (the Oregon School Activities Association) and the Oregon Health Authority to be able to play basketball,” said Lance Dixon, superintendent of the North Powder School District.

The basketball season would operate in a more localized league, akin to those from decades past.

Teams would compete among Baker, Union and Wallowa counties to minimize out-of-area travel and keep the risk of COVID-19 spread as low as possible, according to Union High School Superintendent Carter Wells.

The Oregon Health Authority and OSAA have to accept the proposal before local schools can implement it, and play depends on COVID-19 levels becoming and remaining low.

“If the outbreaks were really bad, I’d have to make the call that my kids aren’t participating,” said Elgin School District Superintendent Diane Greif. “Do I think that’s best for my kids? Absolutely not, they need to be participating in stuff. But if our infection rate were to bounce back up or get out of control, or we started seeing some infections in the school districts in our region, then I would have to make that call.”

Greif said keeping her students and staff safe from infection is paramount, but noted even online competitions and events for clubs such as FFA and FBLA didn’t provide students with the benefits of in-person activities.

“A lot of (the students) join these clubs for the opportunity to have exposure to different things, so this exposure’s not quite what that opportunity was,” Greif said. “I guess it’s better than none, but the interaction with kids from other schools and other areas of the state has been a positive thing for our kids, so without that it’s rather frustrating.”

Greif said Elgin students already are participating in conditioning programs to prepare for whatever season might be approved, though that conditioning was not sport-specific.

“We haven’t been told by OSAA what we can participate in, so we’re just doing some conditioning,” Greif said.

North Powder School District recently posted a survey to its Facebook page encouraging members of that community to submit their opinions regarding a return to competition.

“We were trying to gather data on how many of our community members, whether they had kids, don’t have kids, et cetera, support us being able to play sports,” Dixon said.

School officials said they also hope to have seasons for football and volleyball in the near future, but were waiting on a decision from the state.


Former reporter with the La Grande Observer and Union County native. Coverage includes COVID-19, news stories, sports, business and community issues. If you've got a news tip, send it to news@lagrandeobserver.com.

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