Parents, students in Williamsburg and James City County push back after the decision of no winter sports


WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (WAVY) – School officials in the Williamsburg and James City County District have canceled winter sports for middle and high school — but there has been push back on that decision from students and parents.

School leaders say their first priority and goal is safe in-person learning, which means, for now, winter sports don’t make the cut. This is a problem for families who rely on winter activities.

Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools announced Monday that winter sports will not happen during the 2020-2021 school year.

The decision was made after the superintendent consulted with high school principals, athletic directors, and central office leaders, according to a division wrote in a news release.

For Paige Richardson, like many seniors in the WJCC district, this is her last opportunity to play ball in high school. But the decision by the district leaders makes that impossible for her.

“I was kind of upset and mad because it’s my last year and knowing you’re not going to be able to play after you’ve been playing all three years,” she explained as she said was also not allowed to play softball last spring.

This is why a petition was created that now has nearly 800 signatures. But leaders say the decision was necessary.

“We reached the point with the rising case numbers in James City County and also Williamsburg. Looking within the Peninsula as well, just didn’t feel comfortable having students participate in athletics in the winter season,” said Chief Operating Officer Daniel Keever.

But parents have questions.

“How did they come to this decision without the input of the parents?” asked Doris Moore, a parent of two students in the school system — both of who play basketball.

Keever said, “I don’t think there was an intent to exclude parents, but I do very much think that we are making decisions around what we feel that decision needs to rest with those that are responsible for implementing it.”

But there are concerns about losing collegiate opportunities 

“I’m trying to do a dual sport, for basketball and softball, so knowing I can’t get game film for this season basketball-wise too affects it,” said Richardson.

And concerns for no positive outlets still linger for other students.

“A lot of us, we have home problems, and basketball is a great outlet for a lot of people and they just canceled it,” said Shadae Williams.

“It’s like most of the decisions that are being made right now around education and educational services, there are some in the community who agree with the decision and some who don’t agree,” said Keever.

So, could things change?

“If the Virginia High School League changes dates and that were to occur, then maybe we would revisit the decision based on the health metrics and the case numbers within our locality,” said Keever.

It’s not the answer everyone wants to hear, but Keever is offering a sense of hope.

“We are hopeful that there will be opportunities for our fall athletes and spring athletes to be able to experience practice and competition,” he continued.

The division will monitor health data and refer to guidance from the Virginia High School League for other school activities such as debate, forensics, scholastic bowl, and one-act plays.

The division will also notify students and families through the WJCC Schools rapid notification system if there are other changes to activity schedules or fall and spring sports.

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