County schools shut down sports for three weeks

By Bobby Bryant


All sports at all Darlington County public schools will be suspended Dec. 21-Jan. 11 because of the COVID-19 threat, the county school board decided last week. The suspension was to begin the day before the Darlington County School District started its two-week Christmas break and end one week after students return to school, the board decided in its Dec. 14 meeting. The suspension covers all athletic competitions and practices. “This is not something anyone wants to do, but at this particular time, we don’t have much choice,” board chairman Warren Jeffords said. The problem is not so much the actual number of student athletes testing positive for COVID-19, but the number of teammates, coaches and staff who must go into quarantine when even one athlete tests positive, county Education Superintendent Tim Newman told the board. “It’s a continuous situation with the athletic quarantines,” Newman said. “ … It’s nonstop. … Kids are missing significant time from the classroom. It’s not just Darlington County. Everybody is grappling with this. … We are fighting an uphill battle.” Newman said that, in the past two weeks, “from a student standpoint, the vast majority of all our quarantines have come from our athletics programs, specifically basketball and wrestling.” “As fortunate as we were during football season to not have significant (incidents), we’ve not been able to escape that with winter sports,” Newman said. “Let me give you an example,” he went on. “I’m looking at the first of the month on a day we actually had totaled three student positives and 29 quarantines – on this particular day, 28 of the 29 quarantines were two basketball programs.” “ … The very next day, we had one positive student case in the district; we had 28 quarantines. Twenty-four of those were from, again, athletic programs. That also took out five adults as well. When these quarantines happen, not only do they happen for kids, they happen for adults, and typically a lot of our coaches and assistant coaches.” Newman said the individual schools in the DCSD were doing well at keeping COVID numbers low, as reflected in a school-by-school case breakdown reported in the News & Press last week. (Those numbers are COVID cases only, not people caught up in quarantines.) Board member Wanda Hassler said: “If we were seeing in a school what we are currently now seeing with our sports teams, we’d be shutting the school down.” “We would,” Newman agreed. One problem, Hassler said, is that “the basketball players are not wearing masks (on the court). As they’re competing, they’re not wearing masks. The coaches may be wearing masks on the sidelines, but they are not wearing masks while they are playing.” The board agreed to the three-week sports shutdown without dissent. (Member Jamie Morphis was absent.)

Author: Stephan Drew

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