Student athletes in Montgomery County can compete, just not right now

Published: Jan. 6, 2021 at 1:29 AM EST
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MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) - In Montgomery County, student athletes will be allowed to compete this season if the district’s metrics continue to trend downward.

Right now, the district has decided to follow the MCPS Return to Play Criteria approved by Region VI superintendents from Allegheny, Covington, Craig, Botetourt, Roanoke County, Roanoke City, Salem, Montgomery, Floyd, Franklin, Patrick, Henry, Martinsville, Pittsylvania and Danville.

MCPS is monitoring three key numbers on the VDH website to determine whether it is safe to return to competition. They look at seven- and 14-day numbers, but also consider the percentage of positivity and cases per 100,000 people.

At Tuesday night’s school board meeting, dozens of athletes and their families packed the hall, expressing the importance of being able to compete this season. They chanted “let us play” outside ahead of the meeting, worried the school board might override the superintendent’s decision to follow Region VI criteria.

“This decision really rides along the rest of my senior year, because I’m not wrestling, there’s not really much else for me to do,” said senior Kyle Keister.

Keister is a wrestler at Christiansburg High School.

“With wrestling you really need to get as much time on the mat as you can, because that’s where most of your technique is going to come from,” Keister said. “People like me that’s only been wrestling a couple of years, that’s where you need the most of your practice is on the mat.”

It’s a feeling echoed among all but one speaker during the school board’s public comment period.

“There’s no reason to make them suffer more by not being able to compete; it’s great that they can go to practice and they can go to weightlifting, but the fact that they can’t actually compete, it’s kind of like, what’s the purpose,” said speaker Kate Henley.

“Our numbers have not been and our burden have not been at a level where we could compete based on the Return to Play Criteria that Region VI superintendents agreed upon,” said Director of Human Resources Danny Knott. “We hope very soon that our metrics will get us to a point where we can play.”

Elementary school teacher William Holliman spoke in opposition, asking the district go fully remote for learning.

“We have to look at all the data that we have available and make the best decision possible,” said District G board member Mark Cherbaka.

“If we get the word, we’re ready to go,” Keister said.

Once the metrics trend downward for a 14-day period, competitions can begin to happen. Students will have to compete with masks on, and if other districts don’t usually do that, Superintendent Dr. Mark Miear said they will have to adhere to the MCPS requirement when they compete.

Knott shared information during the meeting that masks do not inhibit oxygen intake or getting rid of CO2 significantly, although there is a mental piece and discomfort that requires adaptation to the barrier.

Miear will be meeting with the superintendents from Region VI to further discuss the return-to-play criteria.

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