In 'two-fold' decision, BOE delays start of middle school basketball

BY CHAPEL FOWLER, News + Record Staff
Posted 1/11/21

PITTSBORO — Chatham County Schools will delay the start of its winter middle school basketball season by four weeks after a unanimous vote from the CCS Board of Education on Monday …

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In 'two-fold' decision, BOE delays start of middle school basketball

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Update: Chatham County Schools has posted an  updated middle school basketball schedule to its website. Games will start on Monday, Feb. 15 (See Page 3 for calendar).

PITTSBORO — Chatham County Schools will delay the start of its winter middle school basketball season by four weeks after a unanimous vote from the CCS Board of Education on Monday afternoon.

The district’s eight middle school teams were previously scheduled to start their basketball seasons on Thursday, Feb. 4. But since those games will go on without fans, the BOE approved a four-week delay so the district can purchase and install $5,000 Pixellot cameras that will allow games to be streamed online.

The possibility of a “better (coronavirus) pandemic situation” when middle school basketball teams start in March also played into Monday’s proposal, according to district athletic director Chris Blice.

“The idea in delaying the season was two-fold,” Blice told the board at Monday’s meeting.

During the extended delay, middle school basketball teams are still allowed to hold socially distanced preseason "skill sessions," which they were eligible to start on Monday.

The BOE’s decision has no effect on high school basketball, which is carrying on as per usual at Northwood, Jordan-Matthews and Chatham Central with coronavirus safety guidelines — including a mask mandate for everyone, active players included — and a capacity limit of 25 spectators.

The district installed Pixellot cameras at all of its three high schools ahead of volleyball season in November and got positive feedback from parents who watched those games online through the NFHS Network, a streaming site that offers weekly and monthly subscriptions.

“The position we’ve taken is we want to provide as much access and ability to see those games as possible,” said former CCS superintendent Dr. Derrick Jordan, who joined in on the BOE’s COVID-19 discussion Monday before officially starting his new role at the state Department of Instruction.

Blice said CCS isn’t allowing spectators at its middle school basketball games since those gyms vary in size and are generally much smaller than the district’s high school gyms. As such, adding streaming capacities for those facilities took extra importance.

“We think it would make sense for us to install the same technology at the middle schools that’s been installed at the high schools,” Jordan said, “but that’s going to require some time to get that done.”

BOE member David Hamm complimented the proposal, saying it wasn’t “just a knee-jerk reaction” since there are always parents who can’t attend sporting events, regardless of COVID-19.

“This is an investment for forever,” he said. “Not just this spring.”

Hamm then made a motion to delay the middle school sports season by four weeks to install the Pixellot technology; his motion was seconded and approved unanimously, 5-0, by the BOE.

The district is finalizing a new amended game schedule and hasn't determined an official start date for winter basketball season, CCS spokesperson John McCann told the News + Record on Tuesday.

The delayed start of basketball season will also affect baseball, volleyball and women’s soccer, the three middle school sports scheduled  to follow basketball season later in the spring.

CCS has eight middle schools that will be affected by the move: Chatham Middle, Horton, Pollard, Silk Hope, Moncure, J.S. Waters, Bonlee and Bennett.

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

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