Salem to stay the course on school sports, despite rally

Dozens gathered outside the latest school board meeting
Published: Jan. 12, 2021 at 11:49 PM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Tuesday night, the debate over youth sports continued, this time in Salem. With just weeks left in the winter sports season, parents and students asked the city’s school board to approve a return to play. The board said it appreciated the feedback, but will be sticking to the course for now.

“It’s just what I love,” said Kennedy Scales, a Spartan junior.

Scales, who plays basketball, was one of dozens of students and parents who gathered outside the board meeting at South Salem Elementary.

She and friend Brynn Bowen said sports are their passion, and more important than even in-person schooling.

Administrators disagree.

“As long as the community is experiencing the highest levels of COVID-19 transmission, we feel that it’s not safe to play,” said Assistant Superintendent Dr. Curtis Hicks.

Hicks said Salem will not be changing its metrics to let sports resume. Instead, transmission rates will have to come down.

“If you look at the numbers, we’re almost double what Roanoke city is, and we’re significantly higher than the county as well,” said Hicks, citing that as one of the reasons the Spartans will be sidelined, even as surrounding districts return to play.

The district will be making some changes, though – particularly for sports like basketball, where close contact can be limited.

“[We will] kinda create pods in practice,” said Hicks. “And then we’ll kinda take a look at that at the end of the week, and hopefully next week we can actually expand that to five-on-five full court scrimmages with our players.”

Still, that’s a long way from the ideal Scales and Bowen say they’re waiting for.

“If you play a sport you want to actually be out there competing in that sport,” said Bowen.

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