It’s no secret that most kids love sports, regardless if they are considered athletes or not. Whether they play competitive sports like football, soccer, volleyball or basketball versus track, chess, or discus, kids who have that talent or drive need those outlets.
At the monthly School Board meeting on Tuesday, November 10, Superintendent Jeanette Warwick shared that they are drafting a new athletic handbook, while she is currently waiting for the updated changes and regulations from the Pioneer District and the VHSL released their recommendations on October 30.
“We are trying to be as much on the same page with those that we play,” she added.
With basketball season quickly approaching, Warwick directed the floor to Samuel Foster who informed the Board of their ideas for this basketball season, though he did say that there was not much time allotted for discussion in preparing his report.
“We talk about academic goals, however, we also have pandemic goals,” Foster explained. “Right now, the two goals that we have are to keep students and staff safe and to keep our schools open.”
He added that the VHSL goals are to keep students, players and staff safe, and they have suggestions of how to in each sporting activity.
VHSL guidelines include: six-foot distancing on the bleachers and the sidelines, if individuals are a non-participating athlete they must wear a face covering, additional cleaning measures for equipment in locker rooms, and there will be no handshaking or team meetings which could help spread the virus.
“Thus far, to help prevent the transmission of the virus in our schools, we operate in a bubble in a sense that we have reduced or eliminated all travel as we do not allow visitors into our building and we are conducting virtual meetings as much as possible,” Foster said. “We have also instigated litigation strategies such as, wearing face coverings, social distancing, promoting hygiene and additional cleaning procedures. For the most part, we have students staying together in what we call educational pods.”
He then added, “Athletics is going to change this a little bit as we will no longer be in a bubble as basketball requires teams, togetherness and traveling.”
Craig County teams will travel to other school districts while visiting teams will also travel to Craig to play the sport. Therefore, Foster had to pop the bubble a little.
“Athletes cannot maintain social distancing when you play basketball and currently if we have spectators to come into our building that will be a violation of our guidelines,” he said.
Therefore, he explained, the precautions that Craig County schools will maintain: six-feet social distancing, limiting spectators to family members only and there will be no visiting fans, face coverings will be worn by all non-competing athletes, no concessions will be sold, and there will be health and temperature screenings for all participants and spectators, as well as following all other guidelines and recommendations.
Foster added that they would be careful in deciding when they will be playing a game.
Many factors will be considered, such as; looking at the VDH website for transmissions and the school metric which shows individual schools degree of the virus and then look at extenuating circumstances (such as an area having the virus numbers to excel due to only one area, such as a nursing home, etc). He added they would consult with local health departments as well to look at school-specific outbreaks.
“All this is subject to change, as come March, all may be different,” he said. “As of now, this is the best approach to keep the spread out of our schools and keep our schools open.”
Board member Gina Smith shared that she is very sports-driven and wants the kids to be safe too, yet feels the school can keep sports going safely.
She inquired about looking at the red in areas, as she noted there are many drive-through numbers increasing as “we are testing excessively now, however, a lot of those positive cases are not children.”
“I’d like for sports to continue for our kids as it helps them mentally and physically,” Smith explained. “Especially when we are told by data that those are not necessarily numbers which include ages 0-17 where many kids don’t even show symptoms.”
She added, “If we are inactive for two seasons, internally it can cause long-term effects, like, OCD, diabetes, high blood pressure, anxiety and even suicide. Are we going to continue to shut down our kids’ sports to something that many are basically A-symptomatic to?”
Warwick shared that they would discuss the logistics of the red areas and it will not be automatic.
Foster added that the schools are trying to come up with a plan to get a season in place for the students.
“Some are more conservative than us while others are less conservative, while we are trying to make the best decisions for our players,” he said. “Our goals are to keep students in school and to continue educating.”
Craig County High senior Autumn Hutchison is a sports enthusiast and has played volleyball, softball and basketball since her freshman year. She also joined the track team her junior year.
“I would be willing to share my thoughts on sports for The Record,” she shared.
Last year, she said that the only sports COVID-19 affected was softball. Also, she had just joined the track team.
“We got to have our tryouts, a few practices and the softball team had one scrimmage,” she said. “After that, we did not go back to school and did not get to finish the rest of our season.”
However, she shared that she is happy to be back in school even if she only gets to go two days a week.
“It’s the one thing that is even a slightly bit normal, despite how different it may be,” she said. “I am leaning on my family and teachers because I know they are all trying their hardest to make it as normal as possible for my friends and me to have an amazing senior year.”
Sadly though, this school year is different for her and her teammates.
“I had planned to play each sport again this year, but so far I have not got to touch a ball for any school team,” Hutchison said. “Therefore, our senior seasons are still a work in progress. We are unsure if we are going to get to play. It has been very difficult to not have volleyball this fall, especially considering the high we are coming off of from last season.”
Last year, the Lady Rockets won first in the district and third in the region.
Hutchison added, “We are all definitely heartbroken, specifically my senior friends. These are memories that we will not get to makeup and it has been very hard imagining what our senior year of sports and school would be like without COVID-19 affecting it.”
She stressed that they truly are just wanting to be able to play, “even if that means just one game.”
“I know all of us are itching to get back on the courts and field,’ Hutchison said. “We also are hoping that the regulations of limiting fans will be lifted because we love having our student section and fans out there cheering us on.”
The teams are hoping the Board understands their viewpoint as well, as they agree to adhere to being more cautious as well, during this pandemic that has changed so many of their teenage lives.