Will the Greenwood Leflore Consolidated School District be the next domino to fall?

It appears that will be the case. During a Tuesday work session, Dr. Mary Brown, superintendent, recommended to the school board that  fall sports be canceled amid growing concerns related to  the COVID-19 pandemic. She told the board that following the long list of health guidelines wasn’t “feasible” and that it’s just “not safe” to restart sports yet.

There was no vote on the issue, but the board may vote on the measure at its next scheduled meeting on Aug. 4.   

While the GLCSD has yet to make a final decision on whether to forge ahead amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Greenville Public School District board of trustees voted to cancel all fall middle and high school athletics and activities, including football, volleyball, cross country, choir, band and cheerleading.

Clinton Gatewood, head football coach at Greenwood High School and athletic director for the district, said he wasn’t surprised to see Greenville make the “tough call” because “they are doing what they feel is the safest thing for the kids.”

When pushed on what he believes will happen here, Gatewood didn’t want to speculate, but did say it just doesn’t feel safe to resume sports at the moment.

The MHSAA has voted to delay the start of the 2020 season from Aug. 21 to Sept. 4.

Back in May, the MHSAA announced its “return to activity” guidelines with help from medical professionals across the state as schools were allowed to resume summer athletics effective June 1. But Greenwood High, Amanda Elzy High and Leflore County High, all under the GLCSD umbrella, never began workouts. Gatewood said that call came from the heads of the school district.

On Monday, coaches in the Jackson Public Schools system were notified by a district official that football seasons for the six schools in that system had been canceled. A JPS spokesman released a statement later in the evening that they had been misinformed and that a decision about fall sports had not yet been made.

JPS immediately was hit with heavy criticism on social media once the news broke on Monday. Several of the more high-profile football players from the JPS quickly announced intentions via Twitter about transfering to a private school, like Jackson Academy, Jackson Prep or Madison-Ridgeland Academy.

Even though there has been some back-tracking in Jackson, Gatewood said he expects the district to make it official some time soon that there won’t be fall sports for JPS programs.

The Mississippi High School Activities Association has released guidelines and rules for fall sports competition.

General guidelines were posted on the MHSAA website on Tuesday, as well as more specific guidelines for each fall sport — cross country, football, swimming and volleyball.

In an effort to mitigate transmission of COVID-19, several health and social distancing measures have been established by the MHSAA, such as hand sanitizer stations and a mask requirement for fans.

Being a high-contact sport, football will be the trickiest road to navigate. To help maintain social distancing, the team box on each sideline will be extended to the 10-yard line in each direction.

Players must remain 6 feet apart at all times while on the sidelines.

Footballs must be cleaned and sanitized throughout the contest, and ball holders must maintain social distancing of six feet.

Players are allowed to wear cloth face coverings on the field.

Charged timeouts may be extended to two minutes in length. Players and coaches involved in the timeout conference must stay between the 9-yard marks.

Pregame and postgame handshakes will not be allowed.

Among the general guidelines for fall sports:

• The size of a facility should be large enough to allow for social distancing.

• All game-day personnel should be screened for COVID-19 prior to working the event.

• When possible, team bench areas should accommodate social distancing and should be only for essential personnel.

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