OP-ED: The Wrong Decision

WJCC made the wrong decision by cancelling winter sports.


Onderwijsgek at nl.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 NL , via Wikimedia Commons

WJCC schools has setback the return for sports.

On November 24th, Williamsburg-James City County public schools made the decision to cancel the 2020-21 winter sports season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Basketball, swimming, indoor track and wrestling will not be competing at WJCC’s three high schools: Lafayette, Jamestown and Warhill.  WJCC Superintendent Owlen Herron citied that rising cases in the region was the reason that caused the cancelation.  But, why?  This is the wrong decision.  We can have a sports season without spreading the virus.  York County, Newport News, New Kent, Hampton, and every private school on the peninsula will be having a season.

Basketball season, one of the only sports to have a large student presence at games, will not be competing this year.

Why is it just us?  With almost every county in the state having a season, why are we not?  Governor Ralph Northam and the Virginia Health department said we can safely have a winter sports season, and yet we decide not to?  What was the criteria for canceling?  Why was there no input from the community on the decision?

These were all questions I had for Superintendent Herron in a email I wrote to her.  It has been a week and a half since I sent that email and I still have not received a reply.  Many students and parents have sent similar emails to the superintendent and/or school board members.  It seems to me and many others that if the school board and the superintendent were confident that they made the right call, they would be defending their decision with statistics and articulate explanations.  Instead, they give vague statements about “rising cases” or do not respond at all.

We can have a safe season.  Club sports have been going on safely since early May and have not caused the huge spikes that people believe will happen if we play in the winter.  I can speak from first hand experience: I’ve been to a ton of swim meets and at each one, there have been safety precautions to help prevent the spread of COVID.  Here are the USA swimming safety guidelines.  When you walk into the building, you have your temperature taken.  From there you walk onto the deck with your mask on.  You get into a lane with none or a single person depending on how many people are allowed in your state.  You swim, you get out, put your mask back on and leave through a different exit.  That dramatically lowers your chance of getting COVID.

I assume that you can do a similar thing with indoor track, another sport that does not involve contact.  Runners can warm up, go inside with a mask, do their, event, put their mask back on and leave out a back door.  If you really want to be creative, move the meets outside and have two outdoor track season.  That is better than nothing.  For sports like basketball and wrestling, make the athletes wear a mask due to being up close with other athletes.  That should help lower the chance of transmission by a significant amount.

Josh Sims, a freshman at Lafayette who has played in several baseball tournaments, said “I do not understand why we can not have sports.  Everyone in the country has found a way to play their sport safely except for us.  It’s like we don’t even want to try”.  Will Outten, a football player at Lafayette, says, “Given that we have more time to see how things progress I feel confident that we’ll be able to find some way to play.”  I’m hoping that Will is correct, there is no need to keep cancelling sports.

At the TYR Blizzard Blitz in Cary, North Carolina, parents could watch their swimmers race on a Facebook livestream. This is a creative way to allow parents to watch their kids and keep a safe environment.

The only criteria we have at the moment is that we have had “rising cases.”  If that is the only criteria that the school board is using, you can kiss the fall and spring seasons goodbye.  That would be two straight years without spring sports.  That would mean no football, no baseball, countless scholarships and bright futures being lost in the name of short term safety.

Do we want more of this?  If you want to sit out the season for your safety, you should be able to.  Forcing everyone to sit out is not fair.  We can do it safely.  We just have to try.