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Mecklenburg trustees call off fall, winter sports

SoVaNow.com / November 18, 2020


The Mecklenburg County School Board voted unanimously Monday night to cancel all fall and winter sports for the 2020-21 school year.

Trustees agreed to hold off any decision regarding spring sports until March, when conditioning for those sports should begin.

The vote was 8-0 with trustee Gloria Smith absent from the Monday night regular monthly meeting of the school board.

In calling off fall and winter sports, trustees accepted the recommendation of the board’s athletics committee, which consulted with the athletic directors at Bluestone and Park View high schools and middle schools on the matter.

In July, the Virginia High School League (VHSL) board of directors approved a schedule that reconfigured the winter sports season to run from Dec. 14-Feb. 20, with the first games to be played Dec. 28. Winter sports include basketball, gymnastics, indoor track, swim/dive and wrestling.

The fall sports season was flipped in order to begin after winter sports, with fall teams — cheerleading, cross country, field hockey, football, golf and volleyball — starting competition on Feb. 15 and continuing through May 1, with the first game played on March 1.

The spring sports season remains set to run from April 12-June 26 with the first games played on April 26. Spring sports include baseball, lacrosse, soccer, softball, tennis, and track and field.

Speaking for the athletics committee, trustee Wanda Bailey said high school and middle school athletic directors — Mike Barmoy, Justin Kirkland, Chrystal Chandler and Claire Harris — concurred with the recommendation to cancel fall and winter sports, in light of Gov. Ralph Northam’s recent announcement regarding VHSL operating parameters.

Northam and the VHSL are limiting the size of crowds at indoor events to 250 people or 50 percent capacity of the venue (whichever is fewest), including players, coaches, officials, workers, and spectators. Another mandate calls for the thorough cleaning of all locker rooms in between use by competing teams.

The ADs spoke of the most obvious complicating factor — the fairness of allowing students to return to school for sports when they were not allowed back to school in person for academics.

They also fretted over the ability of the school division to implement the VHSL mandates and noted that transportation would be a problem since only 20 players could ride on any one bus at a time. School activity buses are not allowed to be used due to having cloth seats, and with bus drivers already at a premium, teams might not have transportation to events.

The school division would face extra costs from having to pay custodial staff for the additional hours spent cleaning locker rooms during games.

The committee wrestled with another major question — who Mecklenburg teams would play against. A number of schools in the Tri-Rivers District, which includes Park View High School, have already announced plans to forego fall and winter sports, and two other school division are experiencing high COVID-19 numbers and are not in school.

At the middle school level, schools in Lunenburg, Brunswick, Prince Edward, Greenville, and Cumberland counties have not been given a green light to schedule or participate in competitions which presents more scheduling problems.

Concession stands would not operate during the games, thus limiting income opportunities for the athletic departments.

Trustee Ricky Allgood said he received calls from parents complaining about the lack of sports for their kids. He said he “feels for the kids who look forward to athletics but there is nothing we can do about this. We are doing all we can.”

Lindell Palmer, who in addition to serving as a principal of Bluestone High School, coached several sports teams before he retired, agreed with Allgood, Bluestone’s longtime retired band director. “It’s almost a no brainer. We are at a point that we can’t do sports,” said Palmer, who added, “there’s more to school than athletics.”

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