Roanoke County parents push to get sports off the sidelines

The efforts come as health officials say it’s still unsafe to play
Published: Jan. 5, 2021 at 12:22 AM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - The video posted Sunday runs 15 minutes, and cuts from face to face. Dozens of students look into the camera from different grades and schools, but all with the same request: let us play.

That message is aimed squarely at the Roanoke County School Board.

Tuesday, the board is scheduled to discuss a possible return to play for student athletes. Sports in the county have been on hold since the COVID-19 pandemic began, delayed first by the VHSL, then by guidance from the health department.

“It’s really not just about playing sports. It’s their whole way of life for a lot of kids and athletes,” said Jennifer Hanks, one of the organizers of the “Let them Play” push in the county.

She says for students like her sons, Kyle and Rawlin, sports aren’t optional.

“Kids are vulnerable at this age. They need sports, they need structure, they need a lot of things,” said Hanks. “It can be done safely.”

Health experts aren’t so sure.

A letter to parents from the Roanoke/Alleghany Health District’s Cynthia Morrow pointed out in bold that “it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to maintain…mitigation strategies…for competitive indoor close contact winter sports.”

Schools that have restarted sports have also seen mixed results.

At North Cross School, basketball is shut down after seven student athletes and a coach tested positive for the virus. A recent letter from School Head Christian J. Proctor said this may be “the first case of on-campus spread of the disease.”

For her part, Jennifer Hanks says she knows there are risks.

But she feels it’s a choice parents should be allowed to make.

“At this point, right now, in Roanoke County, we don’t have a choice for our kids,” she said.

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