Navajo Prep cancels fall sports amid Navajo Nation's current stay-at-home order

Matt Hollinshead
Farmington Daily Times
Navajo Prep's Dontrell Denetso finds an open gap down the middle against Tohatchi on Friday, Sept. 26, 2019, at Eagle Stadium in Farmington. Prep announced fall sports will be canceled this season.

FARMINGTON — Navajo Prep won’t be able to resume sports in its entirety, as the school announced that fall sports have been canceled under the Navajo Nation’s current stay-at-home order.

According to the school’s Facebook page, Prep is “authorized to operate by the Navajo Nation and is required to abide by all Navajo Nation regulations.”

“It’s just unreal,” said Eagles football coach Rod Denetso, who's still trying to make sense of the decision. “It’s really out of our control. Our campus is part of the Navajo Nation. We tried everything possible with hybrid (learning) and everything.”

Prep girls soccer coach Stacy Irwin said the land Prep sits on is owned by the Navajo Nation, despite being located within Farmington’s city limits.

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“It’s unfortunate for the kids, and especially my seniors. To be honest with you, I had one girl just break down bawling,” Irwin said. “This is their outlet, something they look forward to… this is a way for them to learn even more.”

According to the school's Facebook page, the Navajo Nation’s stay-at-home order limits Prep’s ability to transition into a hybrid learning plan. That is paired with a resolution the Navajo Nation Board of Education passed on Jan. 13 for Navajo Nation schools to have online learning only through the spring semester. Prep has details outlined in Phase II of its Return to School Plan, per the Facebook page.

Under the New Mexico Activities Association’s latest guidelines, schools can participate in fall sports, including football, cross country, volleyball and soccer, if they’re operating in a hybrid learning model.

Denetso said Prep planned to have the athletes stay at the dorms on campus full-time because it could be used as a bubble setting similar to what the NBA did last fall.

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“That’s how safe we were going to be, and all the coaches got the vaccine,” Denetso said.

Denetso said the NMAA’s plan offered hope for his squad, and then the latest ruling came in.

“Being in Farmington, we’re going to feel like we’re part of the Navajo Nation. Does that make sense?” Denetso said, also noting CCSD’s plan to transition to hybrid learning. “We’re off the reservation, but we can’t play sports… That is not fair.”

According to the Facebook page, Prep’s working with the Department of Diné Education and Navajo Nation Acting Superintendent Patricia Gonnie to create a “hybrid implementation plan” involving select students in an effort to offer winter and/or spring sports.

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Matt Hollinshead covers sports and business for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577, mhollinshead@daily-times.com and on Twitter at @MattH_717.

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