The Greenwood Leflore Consolidated School District will participate in the upcoming winter and spring high school sports seasons.
After a nearly 30-minute discussion during a special called meeting, the board voted 3-2 to move forward with high school athletics, such as the approaching basketball season.
The board, which in August voted to not participate in fall athletics such as football, called the meeting at noon Monday. The vote was held after there was a brief discussion at the board’s regular meeting last week on participating in winter and spring sports. A motion to reconsider the cancellation of fall athletics did not move forward.
Before the vote, Clinton Gatewood, chief of athletics, said that he and Dr. Mary Brown, the district’s superintendent, had been talking about this and trying to figure out ways to keep all students safe in regards to the coronavirus.
Gatewood said he also talked to a group of student athletes on Friday to make sure they understood, if the board were to vote to participate, all of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 health and safety guidelines. He said many agreed to these procedures and even submitted their own safety action plans involving steps they would take to best avoid contracting the disease.
Gatewood also said that he believed only high school athletics should move forward and that junior high should not start playing yet.
After he spoke, the board debated the issue.
One concern that board member Jackie Cooper-Lewis had was if legally the district would be protected.
“Do we have a system to put some liability waivers in place?” asked Lewis, who was concerned about the possibility of the school district being sued if a student contracts the virus while playing sports.
Although the board attorney, Kelvin Pulley, was not physically present at the meeting, he was later called and asked this question.
Pulley said that he had not seen any specific legal guidance for procedures from the state or elsewhere on this issue, but he would check on it as soon as possible.
“I think we are living in a world where people are lawsuit happy,” Cooper-Lewis said.
Board member Antwoine Williams rebutted, saying he sees this as a similar risk as a student getting a broken leg or concussion while playing sports.
The board’s vice president, Dr. Kalanya Moore, said she was concerned about moving forward with athletics when students have not yet returned to in-person classes. The district’s students have been taking online virtual classes since the start of the school year.
“I can’t see us moving into this phase without paying attention to the academics,” Moore said. “That has to be paramount.”
Brown agreed with Moore’s point and said the district is currently having conversations with parents and teachers about transitioning to a hybrid schedule option, which would allow a mixture of both in-person and online learning.
Brown was not yet able to give a timeline on when this transition would happen.
Moore requested to table the vote on winter and spring sports participation for 24 to 48 hours, saying there needs to be a decision on academic and hybrid scheduling first before the board moves on to an athletic schedule.
Brown added that the caution that the board has involving the transition to some in-person classes was that it involves all students and that the decision to participate in winter and spring sports only involves high school student athletes.
Williams and Dr. Ro’Shaun Bailey, both former athletes in the district and the two votes against the board’s August motion to cancel fall athletics, spoke little aside from asking some clarifying questions to Gatewood and other board members.
Board president Samantha Milton, who also spoke very little during the discussion, and Moore voted in opposition.
• Contact Adam Bakst at 581-7233 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @AdamBakst_GWCW