The COVID-19 pandemic has infiltrated the individual lives of every student in the school system. Whether they are students who fully embrace the concept of getting a well-rounded education or not, all have been deeply affected by the halt of school activities.
At the January 12 School Board meeting, Principal Melissa Whiting gave an update on athletics after Botetourt and Roanoke County relaxed their metrix regarding playing basketball.
“We have seven schools in the Pioneer District,” she said.
Whiting also noted the following:
- Craig is doing limited practices, athletes are wearing masks on the sidelines and utilizing no shared equipment
- Covington and Bath are doing this also except they just started Phase II last week
- Highland County has no practices or drills
- Eastern Montgomery is doing limited practices, utilizing masks on sidelines but running full practices with shared equipment but doing no games
- Perry McCluer is running full practices with shared equipment and intra-squad scrimmages and have played one game at Grayson County and since had to shut down due to positive cases
- Narrows is running full practices, inner squad scrimmages, fully playing games and using shared equipment. Their J.V. team is currently quarantined due to a positive case
- Roanoke County who is only playing intercounty
- Botetourt County fully playing other schools.
Additionally, Whiting shared, “Craig County does not have a J.V. girls team this year, as they did not have enough players. Of the two players that came out, one was eligible to play varsity and the other will be a manager.” She also noted that Craig has eight players on Varsity boys, eight players on Varsity girls and seven players on J.V. boys.
“The students that are participating are fully participating, none have dropped out,” she said. “They seem to be very appreciative to the opportunities that are being given them.”
Whiting also noted that Craig is canceling their games a week at a time, after receiving their weekly information from Superintendent Warwick after her Tuesday meetings and a directive was decided.
Thus far, Craig has played no games. There has been a postponed game with Narrows. Covington is still on the books to play, but they are not currently playing.
“Our kids have not fully practiced,” Whiting said. “The coaches rebound with gloves on with one student, sanitizes and changes gloves to go to the next. They are doing the most that they can under the circumstances.”
Some school divisions have chosen to have their students play although all of the schools in the district are red. Whiting added that the entire state is red.
“We want them to play,” she passionately shared. “I can’t imagine my kids in their senior year not playing. The students understand what is going on. I have not told any athletes that we have canceled, and they know how to access the VDH Metrix. They know why we are doing what we are doing.”
Board member Gina Smith added, “I personally would like to see them play though there is only two weeks left. We, not letting our kids play sports, is mentally and physically hurting them more than the risk of them catching the coronavirus. I feel like we are doing them an injustice. I don’t know what the right way to go about that is, such as to mask on the sidelines. People have been playing travel ball the entire time of the pandemic and we don’t see hot spots with them. These kids are pretty low-risk. We know now that they are not transmitting the virus-like we thought they were. I would like to see our kids play.”
Susan Crenshaw said her only issue is what ”the repercussions would be to parents when VDH asks us to exercise precaution.”
Warwick shared that this was discussed at their earlier morning Superintendents meeting.
“There is the realization that other boards have come back and said that they want to play,” she noted before adding, “it appears to me the only school we could play at this time is Botetourt. I just want to make sure I protect our kids here. I think it is really up to what you think. I would love to see them play.”
Smith mentioned other schools are scrimmaging, saying, “Even if it’s two weeks’ worth of playing for our seniors I think they need to play.”
Whiting shared that the coaches have discussed the options and one is extremely cautious saying, “I feel most of the coaches would support whatever you direct.”
Foster reminded the Board, “Back in November was presented to you a return to play handbook based off the VHSL guidelines, which would still be in effect. Students would have to have masks on the sidelines with a limited number of people coming into the building.”
Whiting also said, “We are finishing up Semester 1, and as it stands now, some players will be ineligible to play due to their grades.”
Whiting also noted that football will start soon and will greatly depend on Semester 1 eligibility and volleyball may be varsity only this year.
Bellassai shared he would like to see them play their remainder season and even if a smaller number, that maybe other schools would agree to play with a smaller number too.
“I do think that sports gives our kids motivation and to have something to look forward to and to work hard for,” Smith added. “I think that would help and give them that motivation to do better.”
Board member Faye Powers felt she also needed to lean more on the cautious side.
However, with only two weeks left, the Board had a 3-2 vote to allow students to practice with shared equipment and to play the remainder of the two weeks season in basketball, with the discretion of the coaches and decision pending Covid reports.