Some public schools in the Historic Triangle are gearing up for the fall sports season.
Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools and the York County School Division are allowing students to compete in fall sports during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
WJCC Schools announced on Monday the school division is allowing high school athletes to compete in varsity sports.
“The first game of the season will be a football game on February 26,” according to the WJCC Schools’ news release. “This is the week after some high school students return to school for in-person, hybrid learning.”
However, this does not apply to junior varsity or middle school fall sports.
“We are eager for all student-athletes to have the chance to play,” said Olwen Herron, WJCC Schools superintendent, in a prepared statement. “But we know that having a small group of students taking part in this season allows us to have a laser-like focus on health and safety measures that need to be in place.”
Some sports, like volleyball and competitive cheer, will have the students wear masks when they compete. While other sports are not expected to wear masks during gameplay, players and coaches must wear masks on the sidelines and practice social distancing — six feet apart — when “not actively playing.”
The division also plans to have equipment disinfected “often” and have hand sanitizer available.
“Any disregard for the school division’s mitigation procedures may result in the removal of a player or the termination of the season for an individual team or school athletic program,” according to the division’s news release.
Students who plan to participate in fall varsity sports must have a COVID-19 waiver signed by their families, who will screen athletes daily at home.
“Parents and guardians must also confirm their understanding that a team’s practice or play will be suspended if a player or coach tests positive or is diagnosed as ‘presumed positive’ for COVID-19 by a doctor,” according to the WJCC Schools’ announcement.
The WJCC Schools’ sports teams will compete against each other and other neighboring districts, with most games taking place outdoors for “greater social social distancing and fresh air.”
“We are going to watch our local COVID-19 transmission rates and how well we are using face coverings, cleaning equipment, and keeping players six feet apart,” Dan Mullen, athletic director for Warhill High School added. “If we can’t keep our student-athletes and coaches safe, we will pause the season immediately.”
Tryouts and practices for the fall sports season will take place between Feb. 8-15. More information about the varsity sports schedule is available on the high school’s websites: Jamestown High School, Lafayette High School and Warhill High School.
The York County School Division is moving forward with fall sports, as well including varsity, middle school and junior varsity programs.
“We are currently planning to have fall and spring sports in accordance with the VHSL [Virginia High School League] calendars,” said Doug Hartley, associate director of school administration and compliance for YCSD, who also runs athletics program. “Currently, we are finishing up a winter spring sports season.”
Hartley noted the school division is following VHSL guidelines in addition to guidelines from the Virginia Department of Health and Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters, which supplies the division’s athletics trainers.
Waivers will be required and the school division plans to follow the same guidance from the previous season.
The VHSL provided guidances to schools for Phases 1, 2, and 3, as well as a Return to Participation document, which covers guidance for every sport.
“We’re not having any change in process as we move into season two,” said James “Jim” Carroll, chief operations officer for YCSD. “We’ve had successful season with season one.”
Each sport varies in terms of physical contact, so the guidance will differ and is “sport-specific,” Carroll added.
When asked if there was anything else parents needed to know, Carroll noted students and their families should contact their respective schools and coaches, since each sport has different tryout dates.
Carroll added this is the last week of the winter season, and with playoffs starting next week, the schedule will be determined at the end of the week.
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