‘Teachable moment’: No masks as teens gathered outside Unity Christian game

Football Frenzy

GEORGETOWN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Questions are being raised after Unity Christian’s athletic director allowed kids without masks to gather close to each other outside the fence at the first football game of the year.

The man in charge of high school sports in Michigan explained the need to take precautions against the coronavirus.

“It’s very serious,” Michigan High School Athletic Association Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “I mean, this is what we’ve spent every waking moment of the last six weeks on.”

It happened at Friday’s matchup at Jenison High School, where Unity Christian holds its home games because it doesn’t have its own stadium. Unity Christian students could be seen in groups — not social distancing or wearing masks — up against the chain link fence surrounding the field.

During the game, a News 8 crew asked Unity Christian Athletic Director Jeff Engbers about the sight.

“We aren’t going to fight it because they will go somewhere else,” he responded.

“What should have happened is the AD should have gone over and said, ‘Look, you guys need to leave. If you don’t leave, that becomes an Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department issue,'” Uyl said Monday.

But he also noted that the athletic director’s primary focus is to govern what happens inside the football stadium. While the kids were on school property, they were outside the stadium in an area Uyl said the AD isn’t tasked with policing.

“It’s a teachable moment to take this seriously,” Uyl said.

News 8 reached out to Unity Christian’s AD several times Monday. The school secretary said he was unavailable every time.

“Right now, he can’t talk,” she said.

Meanwhile, the superintendent of Jenison Public Schools said told News 8 that Unity Christian was “responsible for supervision of their game and our facilities on Friday evening.”

“We do not accept responsibility for what Unity Christian allowed to happen on our field last Friday night. This will be addressed in further rental agreements,” Superintendent Tom TenBrink continued.

Ottawa County health officials said the students and Unity Christian administrators could have jeopardized the future of the football season.

“That is always a reality,” said Kristina Wieghmink of the Ottawa County Department of Public Health. “If we don’t stay vigilant, these measures could be dialed back on — and not only does this mean the possibility of fall sports, but K-12 may have to go online. There is a rippling effect.”

After seeing News 8’s video from the game, health officials reached out to Unity Christian to encourage administrators to adhere to the MHSAA and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s coronavirus mitigation guidelines.

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