Board of Education will discuss resuming workouts at meeting Tuesday

Athletic activities have been in a dead period since June 17

BY CHAPEL FOWLER, News + Record Staff
Posted 9/24/20

The Chatham County Board of Education will decide when and if member high schools can resume preseason workouts this fall at a special meeting next Tuesday, the board decided this week.

At a …

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Board of Education will discuss resuming workouts at meeting Tuesday

Athletic activities have been in a dead period since June 17

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Posted

The Chatham County Board of Education will decide when and if member high schools can resume preseason workouts this fall at a special meeting next Tuesday, the board decided this week.

At a special meeting Wednesday night to discuss coronavirus-related actions, the board voted 4-1 to extend Plan C, or fully remote learning, for Chatham County Schools through the end of the first semester on Jan. 15, 2021. Plan C had previously been in place for the first nine weeks.

Board chairperson Gary Leonard, a former Chatham Central baseball coach and athletic director, was the only member to vote against the motion. Afterward, he made a motion for preseason workouts — the NCHSAA calls them “skill development sessions” — to begin later this fall, ahead of the 2020-21 athletic year, which can begin Nov. 4 with official cross country and volleyball practices.

Preseason workouts at Northwood, Jordan-Matthews and Chatham Central have been on pause since mid-June, when the board first voted to move into Plan C for the first four weeks of the school year. The three member schools held two weeks of distanced workouts up until that indefinite suspension.

On Wednesday, other board members told Leonard they’d like more information before such a vote, so Leonard agreed to rescind his motion and tackle it at next Tuesday’s special meeting.

At that meeting, the board will also discuss Plan C exemptions for other extracurricular activities and pre-kindergarten/E.C. students. The public meeting will be held Tuesday, Sept. 29, at 5:30 p.m. in the Horton Middle School multipurpose room in Pittsboro; it will also be livestreamed on YouTube.

CCS administration has taken a cautious approach to athletic activities during the coronavirus pandemic. When the NCHSAA announced schools could resume workouts in mid-June after a months-long dead period, CCS decided to hold off until July 6 so schools could gear up and prepare.

Northwood, Jordan-Matthews and Chatham Central started workouts that Monday, three weeks after the NCHSAA’s allowed start date, and went on for two weeks. Football, cross country and other teams followed NCHSAA Phase 1 guidelines, which prohibited contact or sharing of equipment.

CCS suspended those workouts indefinitely on June 17, a day after the board first voted to start the school year with Plan C. After the board extended Plan C in August, a spokesperson confirmed athletic activities would remain in a dead period as long as classes remained virtual.

The logic, district athletic director Chris Blice said, was that holding workouts while classes stayed online was “contradictory” to the education-first mindset CCS has for all students, athletes included. Plus, surrounding districts — including Wake County, Durham County, Orange County and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools — were yet to resume workouts for similar reasons.

That tide has turned slightly in the past month, though, as Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and Wake County Schools — two massive districts and major players in the NCHSAA — both cleared the way for athletes to return to preseason workouts ahead of the November sports resumption.

CMS cross country and volleyball athletes began workouts earlier this month; Wake County cross country and volleyball athletes can resume on Oct. 1 under a staggered system. HighSchoolOT’s statewide database also shows that a majority of schools and districts have resumed workouts.

NCHSAA athletes can currently work out under what the association is calling its Phase 2 guidelines, which are in accordance with Gov. Roy Cooper’s Phase 2.5 guidelines. The NCHSAA guidelines allow for: 25 people at indoor workouts, 50 at outdoor workouts and shared equipment within “pods.” There is still no contact allowed, and the workouts are not mandatory for any athlete.

The other two high schools in Chatham County, Chatham Charter School and Woods Charter School, held workouts over the summer and are continuing them in the fall. As charter schools, they don’t fall under CCS guidance and operate as their own LEA, or local education agency, in the eyes of the NCHSAA.

Reporter Chapel Fowler can be reached at cfowler@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @chapelfowler.

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