Yokota High School Panthers quarterback Ethan Bricker practices at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023.

Yokota High School Panthers quarterback Ethan Bricker practices at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023. (Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Sports and other extracurriculars will be suspended at Defense Department schools worldwide if Congress fails to reach a deal to fund the government past Sunday.

Department of Defense Education Activity, in a banner notice atop its website, said it is monitoring developments as the clock runs down toward the weekend. DODEA-Pacific regional director Lois Rapp spread the word to parents in a letter Thursday.

“Without enactment of an appropriation bill or a continuing resolution, all Federal agencies, including DODEA, will be required to execute contingency plans for a lapse in appropriations (commonly referred to as a ‘shutdown’) beginning Sunday,” she wrote.

During a shutdown, DODEA schools will run as usual and school-level employees will continue to work, but some administrative employees will be furloughed, according to DODEA’s “What You Need to Know” webpage.

District and community offices will remain open but regional offices and DODEA headquarters will be minimally staffed. All leaves will be canceled, according to the site.

School sports, including practices, and other extracurricular activities will pause during a shutdown, Rapp wrote.

The pause would halt football, tennis, cross country and volleyball seasons at the halfway point.

“I’m hoping for a miracle,” Yokota High School football coach Michael Woodworth told Stars and Stripes on Thursday at the school.

The Far East championships begin Oct. 23 and end Oct. 28. The longest government shutdown – December 2018 to January 2019 – lasted 34 days during the Trump administration.

At Osan Middle-High School in South Korea, football coach Tyler Greve said he hopes the shutdown won’t last long, if it happens.

“I hate it for the students,” he said Thursday via Facebook Messenger. “It’s ultimately affecting them negatively, not being able to participate in sports. Seems like it would impact the students more than anyone. A lot of these kids needs sports to be at their best.”

DODEA didn’t immediately respond to emailed questions Thursday afternoon about further ramifications of a possible shutdown.

“We will continue to provide updates that affect our schools as information comes available,” Rapp wrote.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.
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Dave Ornauer has been employed by or assigned to Stars and Stripes Pacific almost continuously since March 5, 1981. He covers interservice and high school sports at DODEA-Pacific schools and manages the Pacific Storm Tracker.

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