Damien Memorial School’s new leader said there still is a possibility the Monarchs will compete in football and other sports this fall semester.
The future of Damien’s athletic program was placed in jeopardy when Brother Brian Walsh released several employees, including the head coaches for football and boys basketball, and reassigned athletic director Rudy Alejo to a full-time teaching position.
On Thursday evening, it was announced Walsh would not be returning as Damien’s president. Kyle Atabay, who served as principal the past two years, is taking over Walsh’s duties as head of school for the 2020-2021 academic year.
Atabay said Damien’s participation in athletics was never “off the table. We definitely will continue sports as best we can. The COVID situation certainly directs that at this point. Depending on what authorities say, and as safe as it can be, we definitely can continue to participate.”
Atabay added: “At this moment, as we speak, whatever has happened has happened. But the door certainly isn’t shut. I think I need to speak to the other school leaders, especially Brother (Chris) Hall, who’s now the assistant head of school, and look at what our needs are. Right now, because of COVID, our focus has really been on reopening the school for students to come and attend as regularly as possible. That’s where our focus has been.”
Atabay said Aug. 10 is projected as the first day of classes. Atabay said a strong consideration is a hybrid schedule of in-class and on-line instruction. If finalized, Atabay said, “we’re going to follow strict protocols so there’s not a lot of mingling of kids, there’s not a lot of movement during the school day.”
There also are what-if scenarios in case a student or family member is affected by COVID-19.
“The nice thing is because no one has been on campus (for several months), our facilities and maintenance departments have been extremely busy,” Atabay said. “And when the kids come back to school, they’re going to find themselves in almost a brand-new-looking school. It’ll be nice and shiny, and definitely clean.”
Damien ended the past academic year with an enrollment of about 700. Walsh had predicted the count to drop as low as 550. “I’m happy to say we’re just under 650 — 647 or 648 — families that have decided to come back and new families that have decided to join us.”
Atabay is hopeful that athletics also will be able to resume.
“Sports is huge, especially at the high school,” Atabay said. “We want our kids to be well rounded. Not only do we want them to perform in the classroom, but having that outside outlet, especially through something like sports, is huge.”
Atabay said he is monitoring guidelines from the Hawaii High School Athletic Association, which governs state tournaments, and the Interscholastic League of Honolulu, of which Damien is a member.
As to reinstating the coaches, such as football’s Eddie Klaneski and boys basketball’s Alvin Stephenson, Atabay said, “that’s always a possibility. I’m not going to say anything definite. Those people are familiar with our school and our program and our kids. If it makes sense and it works and everything is good and safe, then, yeah, definitely.”