By Stefanie Jackson – The Accomack school board unanimously approved Superintendent Chris Holland’s recommendation Tuesday night to allow students on varsity teams to play spring sports starting March 8.
Accomack students missed out on the opportunity to play sports last spring when Virginia schools closed in mid-March due to COVID-19.
Holland’s recommendation applies only to varsity baseball, softball, soccer, and track and field.
Students in both the hybrid and virtual learning programs may participate if they have grade-point averages of 2.0 or higher in at least three out of four subjects.
Holland would like to hire another coach to assist the head coaches and noted that due to social distancing guidelines, four buses will be required to transport two baseball or softball teams to and from games. Three buses may be needed for soccer teams.
He also wants to hire a nurse who can spend about 30 minutes before each game taking temperatures and checking for symptoms or signs of exposure to COVID-19.
There will be a limit of two spectators per student athlete, and each high school will host no more than one game per day.
The games will not be open to the public; guests will attend “by invitation only,” school board vice chairman Ronnie Holden clarified.
The limit of two spectators per student seemed to be stricter than Gov. Ralph Northam’s executive order allowing up to 250 spectators per outdoor youth sporting event, school board member Lisa Johnson pointed out.
But that order could change, and Accomack schools need to be flexible, Holland said.
No concessions will be offered and no money will be collected at games, he noted.
Some sporting events will be held on Fridays and Saturdays and the season will be short, around nine games.
There will be no travel to Maryland or across the Chesapeake Bay and no stops at restaurants, Holland said.
Charts will be kept showing which students will ride each bus to and from sporting events.
As an additional precaution, players will not shake hands after games.
“We’re going to be running it pretty tight,” Holland said of the sports program.
Since all the spring sports are played outdoors and strict guidelines will be followed, Holland is confident that students will be able to participate safely.
He will take “full responsibility” for the sports program and also expects the high school principals “to be on top of their game” and the athletic director to “take charge.”
School board member Gary Reese, who was on the committee that discussed the school sports issue, said, “This was not something that we rushed into … I think everyone in the community will feel very comfortable with this program that we’ve set up.”
The school board also voted unanimously to add March 29 and 30 to spring break, giving students and teachers a full week off.
Holland called the extended break a “thank-you” to school employees for all their hard work.
Accomack schools Coordinator of Student Health Services Tonya Martin had more “good news” for the school board Tuesday night.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention school metrics March 3, the number of cases of COVID-19 in Accomack per 100,000 persons in a 14-day period was about 238, a number that has been decreasing for 49 days, Martin said.
Accomack’s COVID-19 test positivity rate for the last 14 days was 9.7% and has been decreasing for 27 days, she said.
According to the Virginia Department of Health, Accomack had three new cases of COVID-19 and a seven-day average of five new cases per day as of March 3.
There were two Accomack students and no teachers or school staff members who were positive for COVID-19 as of March 3.