Even if students are still virtual, Prince William County Public Schools’ high school athletic seasons are scheduled to begin in December.
“We have not made any changes to what we previously announced regarding sports, even with the most recent announcement slowing down the return to school, based on health metrics for PWC,” said Diana Gulotta, the director of communications services for Prince William County Public Schools.
On Oct. 7, the county’s school board approved Superintendent Steve Walts’ plan for students to return to the classroom by bringing back pre-kindergarten and kindergarten starting November 10 followed by first-grade students Dec. 1 and second and third-grade students Jan. 12.
There were no return dates provided for students in grades four through 12th.
Walts is scheduled to present another plan for the eventual return of older students at the Oct. 21 school-board meeting. But Walts said that could change based on guidance from the state’s health department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We look at the Virginia Department of Health guidance and currently, their guidance is to begin bringing the Pre-K to [grade] three based on current indicators. … There’s a lot of uncertainty because there’s a lot of uncertainty with the pandemic,” Walts said. “We have to be very careful about how we plan. What I’m trying to do with my staff and with the feedback from the medical community is to bring back something that works and something that sticks, that we don’t have to hopefully have constant reversals.”
Citing the FAQ section on the school division’s web site, the county said students attending high school virtually can still compete in sports or after-school clubs and activities. It also stated that “transportation to the school for athletics or activities will be the responsibility of the parent/guardian and/or student.”
The FAQ also said that “As of September, for high-risk sports to be played, Virginia would need to have fewer coronavirus restrictions in place.” High-risk contact sports are soccer, basketball, field hockey, football, lacrosse, volleyball, and wrestling.
Gulotta said in an email that plans are underway on how to handle transportation to athletic events as well ticketing for fans. As of now, the maximum number of attendees for a high school sporting event is 250 people, a total that includes participants, officials and game-day workers.
“Our transportation staff are working to prepare to support our proposed game schedules,” Gulotta said, “There is a working group of Directors of Students Activities who are developing some ticketing strategies to manage the size of our spectator groups to comply with local health department guidance.”
Asked what fewer restrictions need to be in place for the high-risk sports to compete and how those restrictions are determined, Gulotta said “this is also in progress. We are developing a sport by sport set of guidance for tryouts and competition based on what phase we are in for this locality … Our local health district provides us with data on the our local numbers and the risk level. Today we are in a moderate-to-high risk category and therefore following phase II guidance provided by the Va Dept of Health. We hope that we can see that improve so we can be in lower risk level to allow us to engage in competition when the VHSL seasons begin.”
The high school sports season is scheduled to start Dec. 7 with basketball practice. The first games are scheduled for Dec. 21.
The fall sports season is slated to start in February followed by the spring sports season in April.
The Virginia High School League’s Executive Committee adopted a compressed sports schedule July 27 that means each sport would play 60 percent of its typically allotted regular-season games.
On Sept. 17, the VHSL’s executive committee approved the regular-season, postseason format.