I submitted the following letter to the Accomack County School Board for the Jan. 19, 2021, meeting.
Dear Board Members: I spoke at the Dec. 15, 2020, meeting in favor of high school sports. I presented data from a University of Wisconsin study that concluded there is low risk of infection during play.
In response to my comments, Dr. Johnson raised legitimate concerns about the risk of infection during other aspects of sports, such as locker room interaction. Dr. Johnson also raised a valid concern about students being coerced into playing when they might not feel comfortable doing so.
I firmly believe that these and other concerns can be addressed in a plan developed by medical and sports professionals, if given the opportunity. For example, the locker room concern could be alleviated by having coaches or staff manage small groups of players taking turns to occupy the room for dressing and undressing, only, not for team huddles. I am confident medical and sports professionals can develop more effective ideas than myself, a regular parent.
As for the coercion concern, I propose that parents or guardians have to opt-in to have their students play, perhaps using an interview process whereby the parent or guardian has to talk to the coach by phone or other virtual means to clearly express their support for the student playing, in addition to the normal permission and waiver forms that are submitted.
There are, admittedly, many other complicating aspects of sports that need to be addressed. I only ask that the professionals be given a chance to put a plan together. There are such people willing and available to do exactly that right now. Furthermore, they would have the VHSL guidelines, as well as plans from other school districts who are safely playing now for reference.
Lastly, I would like to offer that the current virtual-only academic instruction environment will serve to make athletes safer during the sports season. They will only interact with other athletes and coaches on a daily basis versus being exposed to the general student body during an in-school day, then interacting with other athletes and coaches later during play. This model is being followed by other school districts, such as Virginia Beach. It is also successful in some work places, where people who typically work in an office are now working from home (just like virtual learning), while people who can only perform their jobs at the work site are allowed on site (just like athletes on the court or field), thus greatly limiting density of people.
So, please, for the psychological and emotional well-being of our students, let them play!
Giovanni Rosanova, Jr., Chincoteague