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Roanoke County Public Schools to bring back varsity athletics

The Roanoke County Public School board voted 4-1 Tuesday in favor of bringing back sports in the county.
Published: Jan. 5, 2021 at 4:51 PM EST
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ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) - After weeks of pressure from parents and students, sports will be coming back in Roanoke County. The school board approved a limited return to play Tuesday afternoon, voting 4-1 in favor.

Winter sports, including basketball and wrestling, will start practicing Wednesday. Any games played will be limited to county schools.

The change only impacts varsity sports. Other students will have to wait.

“What I’ve learned is that kids see each other socially, they play travel sports, they seem to do well with the virus,” said Board Chair Don Butzer, who voted to bring sports back.

Butzer was joined by two board members who’ve contracted serious cases of coronavirus. Board Vice Chair Mike Wray was hospitalized several weeks ago. Board member Tim Greenway attended the meeting remotely because he’s currently infected.

“I think we can do this, and I think we should,” said Greenway.

David Linden was the only board member to vote against the move. “It doesn’t make sense to me at the moment,” he said, pointing to the number of COVID cases in the region. He also said bringing back varsity sports alone would be unfair to other students.

Superintendent Ken Nicely said he couldn’t “in good conscience recommend” bringing sports back.

Health experts have also continued to raise concerns about a return to sports.

“I do not think that we should jeopardize our scholarly activities and getting children into the classroom,” said Dr. Cynthia Morrow during her Tuesday press call.

According to Morrow, in the Roanoke-Alleghany Health District, there have been three confirmed COVID outbreaks because of youth sports, and another two suspected.

Tuesday’s vote by the school board comes after months of lobbying from parents and students.

Many had argued that a return to play was vital for student mental health, and a lack of sports could damage college prospects for some athletes.

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