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High School Sports

West Valley football coach resigns; Fairbanks school board to meet Monday

  • Author: Beth Bragg
  • Updated: August 1
  • Published August 1

Roy Hessner, the first-year head football coach at West Valley High School in Fairbanks, has resigned following an incident that resulted in the hospitalization of three students late last week, the superintendent of the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District said Thursday.

“This incident has shaken not only the students and staff involved, but also parents, families, employees and others who support high school football in our community,” superintendent Karen Gaborik said in an email sent to “School District Families and Staff.”

There will be an opportunity for public comment at a school board meeting scheduled for Monday at 6 p.m., she said in the email.

Hessner was hired to coach the football team in December, according to a news report at the time by KTVF TV of Fairbanks. He took over as the school’s JROTC director in February 2018 and last fall he was an assistant for the West Valley football team and the interim head coach of the school’s flag football team, the television station reported.

Three students were hospitalized last Friday during what Gaborik described in her email as “pre-season football activities" at the University of Alaska Fairbanks swimming pool. The three became submerged in the water and were “pulled from the pool and transported via ambulance to the hospital,” school district spokeswoman Sharice Walker said earlier this week.

“An investigation of the incident is being conducted by Risk Management that will include interviewing those involved,” Gaborik wrote. “Once the investigation is complete, I will review the recommendations and make decisions about how we move forward.”

West Valley’s football team began practice Wednesday with a new head coach in place — Norm Davis, an elementary teacher who previously has helped coach football and wrestling at West Valley, Gaborik said.

Here is the text of Gaborik’s email:

Dear School District Families and Staff,

As many of you are aware, a number of West Valley students who were participating in pre-season football activities were involved in a swimming accident at UAF Patty Pool on Friday evening. This incident has shaken not only the students and staff involved, but also parents, families, employees and others who support high school football in our community. We are incredibly grateful that the three students who were hospitalized have now been released, and are very appreciative of Fairbanks Memorial Hospital for the excellent care available to our community and to our students.

We are committed to the physical safety and emotional well-being of our students. An investigation of the incident is being conducted by Risk Management that will include interviewing those involved. Once the investigation is complete, I will review the recommendations and make decisions about how we move forward.

While I understand families want answers and that it is difficult to wait for the investigation to be complete before information can be shared, I appreciate the willingness of those involved to participate in interviews and to provide information to Risk Management. Staff and the administration reacted as swiftly as possible and will continue to make this a priority.

The West Valley High football season began as regularly scheduled on Wednesday with Norm Davis as the acting head coach. Norm is a teacher at University Park Elementary and has helped coach football and wrestling at West Valley for many years. I would like to thank the many community members who have volunteered to help coach and support the West Valley football team. The previous head coach, Roy Hessner, has submitted his resignation as head coach.

I will continue to provide updates regarding the incident as soon as I can. Thank you for being patient with this process, I understand that it can be difficult and, like you, I want answers as soon as possible. The School Board has scheduled a meeting for Monday, August 5, 2019 at 6 p.m. and there will be an opportunity for public comment.

Best Regards,

Karen

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