Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools not in favor of high school sports during remote learning

Updated: Aug. 6, 2020 at 2:46 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (The Charlotte Observer) - Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools are not planning to allow students to participate in sports this fall.

The district returned a questionnaire to the N.C. High School Athletic Association on Thursday and said it would not allow student-athletes to play sports while in remote learning.

The CMS response to the survey, which was filled out by district superintendent Earnest Winston, included an addendum to whether it would allow sports to be played. CMS shared a copy of the completed survey with The Observer.

“For clarity,” the addendum reads, “in Plan C (remote learning), our response of NO is relative to student-athletes participating in games and competitions that involve other schools. Once the school year opens (academics) we will at some point permit student-athletes to practice on our campuses.”

The district also said it would be helpful if the NCHSAA released “a definitive seasonal start/plan vs. week to week maybes to enable us to develop an athletics plan.”

Providence High football coach Wes Ward said he was disappointed to hear that CMS has all but ruled out fall sports. But he said he was more concerned that the district will not allow teams to participate in offseason workouts right now.

“You have all these schools around us, both private and public, from different counties going,” he said. “I think that’s got to be really tough for our kids to know they’re not even allowed to practice. I’ve talked to a few parents today and that’s the question: ‘Why can’t we just even practice?’

Ward said he worries about players’ mental health during an extended away from school and friends. The pandemic forced schools and sports to shut down in March.

“I don’t think the people that are making these decisions understand the camaraderie and the emotional and mental aspects that go into what these coaches and players and parents have,” he said. “It’s something special for them and something that is really big in their lives. I feel like they’re taking it away.”

It is not clear, however, if there will be any high school football or fall sports played in North Carolina in 2020. Eight states, including Maryland and Virginia, have already moved fall sports to spring.

On Wednesday, N.C. Governor Roy Cooper decided to leave the state in Phase 2 of its reopening plan. Both the NCHSAA and NC Independent Schools said the state needed to move into the less-restrictive Phase 3 to move forward with high school plans for the fall.

Thursday morning, NCHSAA commissioner Que Tucker said her organization hoped to have a calendar update before Aug. 17.

“At his press conference on Wednesday, Governor Roy Cooper and his health team extended Phase Two of the state’s reopening plan until at least September 11,” she said. “Unfortunately, this announcement means that the start of sports for the 2020-2021 school year will be delayed beyond September 1 for NCHSAA member schools.

“We want to play sports during this upcoming school year and are making plans to do so; however, the health and safety of all participants, including coaches and other essential staff, will be a priority as decisions and plans are made.”

As part of its plans, the NCHSAA had sent questionnaires to school systems to gauge reopening plans and willingness to play sports.

The questionnaire asked several questions about the 2020-21 school year. Among the CMS answers:

  • The district said it did not know how long it would remain in remote learning.
  • Asked if, under Plan C (remote learning), the district would allow athletes to play sports, the district said “No.”
  • If CMS transitions to Plan B, which would allow some in-class instruction, it indicated it did not know if student-athletes could play NCHSAA sports.
  • CMS said it would not allow student-athletes to participate in voluntary summer workouts. The NCHSAA allowed schools to have voluntary workouts June 15, provided the local school system allowed it.
  • The district is not in favor of allowing only lower-risk sports, such as girls tennis and cross country, playing in the fall.
  • Asked if it is in favor of delaying all sports until at least Jan. 1 and playing shortened seasons in the spring, the district indicated yes.

Thursday night, CMS Superintendent Earnest Winston issued a statement for clarity:

“CMS’ position regarding athletics has not changed. No ultimate decision will be reached until the NCHSAA announces information regarding the Fall sports athletic season. The NCHSAA sent a pulse survey to gauge current thoughts from superintendents across the state. As I answered that survey, I weighed recent information into my thinking. That includes such information as COVID cases amongst our employees and COVID cases in our facilities. That said, my thinking in response to questions in the pulse survey do not represent a change in the district’s position.”

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