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Students march in protest of state's decision to suspend sports and in-person activities

The IHSSA and IGHSAU suspended all Des Moines Public Schools in-person sports and activities last week due to classes starting online.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Students from Des Moines Public Schools (DMPS) and the Ames Community School District (ACSD) marched to the governor's mansion Monday morning to protest the state's decision to suspend sports and in-person activities as the districts start their school years online.

The Iowa High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) informed DMPS last week that all in-person activities and sports will be suspended starting this Tuesday.

Both DMPS and ACSD plan to start the school year 100% online due to the coronavirus pandemic. The state has approved only ACSD to start the year online.

That's why students are leading the Student March for Fairness. Their hope is that the state will allow them to participate in these activities that impact their present and future lives.

Ezeldin Farag is a senior at Roosevelt High School. He's a well-rounded athlete, playing football, backetball and running track. Sports are his ticket to get out of Des Moines and into his dream of playing college football.

"For me, like most minorities at DMPS, most of us use sports to get out or make it or get into college or pay for college or make it out of the hood," Ezeldin said.

Without a season to play, Ezeldin might not have enough film to submit for scholarship opportunities.

"I'm trying to attend a four year college, full ride and try to get a degree in some type of engineering and play sports," said Ezeldin. 

RELATED: 'Heartbreaking': Metro football teams prepare for season to be put on hold

Athletes across the board participated in Monday's march. Swimmers, volleyball players, baseball players and more were represented from all five of DMPS's high schools. 

"I plan to swim in college. Hopefully Division 1. So this year is important, it's really important," said Lydia Johnston, a senior swimmer from Roosevelt. 

Lydia said swimming not only provides future opportunities, but a way for her to escape from the reality of the coronavirus pandemic. 

"We've lost a lot. So please just let us have this one thing," Lydia said. 

Coaches marched along with their players to Terrace Hill. 

"I don't think it's right to use them as political pawns like they're doing right now," said North High School head football coach Eric Addy. 

"There's a lot of these kids that athletics and activities are the gateway and the bridge to the next part of their higher education Getting the opportunity not to do that, you're taking away a lot of opportunities from these kids," said Roosevelt head football coach Mitch Moore.

Hundreds of students marched from Roosevelt High School to the governor's mansion on Terrace Hill. A tweet from Roosevelt High School's activities account says six schools were represented at the march. Iowa City students were invited to attend. 

Gov. Reynolds didn't come out to meet with the students, but if she was home there is no way she didn't hear their chants to let them play.

DMPS is taking legal action against the state to challenge their attempt to override the local control and decision-making authority provided to school districts under Iowa law. A judge is set to make a decision by Tuesday

Spokesman Pat Garrett from Gov. Kim Reynolds' office released the following statement on the protest:

“Gov. Reynolds is disappointed that the Des Moines Public School System is suing the State rather than working cooperatively to develop a return to learn plan that complies with the law and meets the educational and health needs of Iowa's children. Our Return to Learn plan emphasizes in-person learning, flexibility for school districts, and also parental choice. The State will continue assisting school districts in safely returning teachers and students to the classroom.” 

How do other states compare? 

Local 5 looked into Iowa's border states to find out how they're navigating their own return to learn guidance for sports. 

In Missouri, the style of education "will not impact a school's ability to practice or compete during the 2020-21 school year." That's according to the Missouri State High School Activities Association.

Illinois students are also able to compete in sports this fall while learning remotely. The Chicago Sun-Times reported that the Illinois High School Association will allow schools that are learning remotely to participate in sports. The ultimate decision to do so rests with each district.

The Minnesota State High School League is taking a different approach to sports this fall. Football and volleyball will be played in the spring instead. Athletes will still be able to practice in the fall, however. 

Nebraska high schools have the authority to determine if they will participate in fall sports. That's according to the Nebraska School Activities Association.  

Watch more coverage on the march on Local 5's YouTube channel