Virginia Beach Schools postpones decision on high school winter sports

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VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The winter sports season for Virginia Beach students is still a possibility, at least for now.

Virginia Beach Superintendent Aaron Spence announced Tuesday winter sports could still be canceled at a later date, but they will be postponed for now as officials monitor coronavirus metrics locally and statewide, which have been at record levels.

Last week, school leaders had said health metrics had to drop back to the “yellow zone” from the “red zone” by Tuesday for winter sports to continue. Nearly all districts in Virginia are in the red zone for cases per capita, and Virginia Beach and other Hampton Roads districts are in the red for percent positivity.

Spence says the district needs more time before potentially deciding to cancel the season.

“My team will continue to monitor our health metrics, talk with our neighboring school divisions, and as a member of the Executive Committee of the VHSL, engage with our colleagues on exhausting all possibilities before making any final decision,” Spence said in a message Tuesday.

It comes a day after Suffolk Public Schools announced it would postpone winter sports, with the next review on Dec. 28.

10 On Your Side spoke with Dr. Don Robertson, who is the chief schools officer for VBPS. He says the decision to start sports is a very difficult one for officials to make because they have to consider the health and safety of all those involved, especially the student-athletes.

“From the time they leave their doorsteps to the time they come home, we have a responsibility for them. So, we’ve got to make a decision that places them in the safest environment,” he said.

Robertson says the decision to play has fallen solely on districts with only recommendations coming from the Virginia Department of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Virginia High School League, unlike earlier this year where schools and sports were halted on orders from the governor.

“There’s no litmus test. There’s no handbook. There’s no guidebook. It’s all brand new,” he said about their decision on whether or not to start the winter season.

Ultimately, Robertson says officials will have to make some type of decision, and some may not like the outcome regardless of whether it is to play or to cancel the season.

“The bullseye is on the superintendent in every decision because they’re going to have to make a decision where everyone either loves them or hates them,” he said.

When asked about student-athletes playing in leagues outside of schools and if that influences their decision to start up, Robertson says that some student-athletes had contracted COVID-19 from outside activities but it was the parents’ responsibility.

“The difference is when you play on school time, the school assumes liability and responsibility for students and staff who are tasked with working with those students,” he said.

Robertson said if decided, play could start in early January to meet the VHSL requirements for a season.

“If worst-case scenario across the metrics don’t go in different directions and VHSL doesn’t change its calendar, it would be very hard to have winter sports,” he said.

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