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Mecklenburg trustees green-light return to athletic conditioning / September 23, 2020

The Mecklenburg County School Board voted on Monday night to allow athletic conditioning to resume on high school campuses as county student-athletes prepare for another year of sports. The vote comes on the heels of the VHSL’s approval of the Championship+1 calendar last Thursday, which outlines how kids can return to competition.

School Board Athletic Committee members Wanda Bailey and Lindell Palmer met with athletic directors Mike Barmoy at Park View High, Claire Harris at Park View Middle, Crystal Chandler at Bluestone Middle and Justin Kirkland at Bluestone High on Aug. 31 to discuss preparations for a return to sports.

The athletic directors developed the Mecklenburg County Athletics Return to Play Recommendation and Guidelines. The plan covers everything from COVID-19 protective guidelines to steps to be taken should a student-athlete become infected and how they could return to athletic activities after recovering.

Due to the county’s middle schools not being member schools of the VHSL, those sports programs were also awaiting the VHSL vote to get back to athletics.

The proposed scheduling breaks down into four days, with no sessions on Friday. Monday and Wednesday blocks will accommodate boys basketball, girls basketball, wrestling and cheerleading.

On Mondays and Wednesdays from 4-5 p.m., girls basketball players will condition. From 5:15-6:15 p.m., boys basketball will get to work out. Intervals of 15 minute between workouts are required to clean and sanitize facilities.

Also on Mondays and Thursdays, wrestling athletes will condition from 4-5 p.m. This is contingent upon conditioning only with no contact. Cheerleading conditioning will be held from 4-5 p.m. All sessions are limited to no more than 10 players and one coach at a time; if inside, cheer practice cannot exceed 10 cheerleaders and a coach.

Tuesdays and Thursdays are reserved for football, cross country, golf, baseball, softball, boys and girls soccer and indoor/outdoor track. All work outs take place from 4-5 p.m. and are to be held outside at each sports’ respective playing/practice field.

The alternating practice days allowing for 10 different players to swap out at each session. Other conditions are practices/conditioning guidelines and recommendations are to be adhered to. In addition, all social distancing guidelines are to be followed. And for athletes that play more than one sport, the player must only condition for the sport allowed on that particular day.

Superintendent of School Paul Nichols said kids can’t use gyms for conditioning as currently the school system is utilizing the gyms to host internet cafes.

Bailey said that although volleyball was left off the schedule, the sport would be added. She also cautioned that for now, football and basketball competition are off limits because of Virginia still being in Phase-3 of its road to recovery. Also added to that list of high-risk activities were volleyball, soccer, field hockey, ice hockey, lacrosse, rowing, water polo, and wrestling — all which can’t take place right now and will depend upon Virginia moving past Phase-3 or relaxing the rules to allow some if not all high-risk sports to take place.

The James River District and the Tri-Rivers District, which include Bluestone and Park View as member schools, respectively, can't tentatively schedule games as each district was not allowing athletics to take place.

But with a formal working plan now in hand, Mecklenburg County student-athletes have hope of going back to playing sports in the near future — with caution.

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