Better late than never, the Kanawha County Board of Education Wednesday gave its approval to the Secondary School Activities Commission’s three-phase comeback plan for athletes statewide.
In a special session, the county school board passed a motion 5-0 to allow athletes to participate in the program while following SSAC guidelines. Phase 1 of the plan, with an emphasis on strength, conditioning and agility, began Monday at several counties around West Virginia, including Putnam and Cabell, and runs until June 19.
Each county’s school board needed to OK the activities before they could start, and Kanawha originally didn’t have its next regular meeting scheduled until June 18, when Phase 1 will be nearly completed. However, Wednesday’s special session provided the forum to give the board’s approval.
“We were getting a lot of concerned parents,’’ said board member Ric Cavender, who requested the special meeting, “and just folks reaching out saying we were almost a week behind surrounding counties in implementing Phase 1 and to come back for this SSAC plan.
“I felt it important enough to stay consistent as much as possible with our surrounding counties and to go ahead and have a special meeting to address this, because there was a lot of misinformation floating out there. Initially, folks thought we voted not to do it. Certainly, that was not the case. We wanted to clear that up, and also to vote to do it.’’
Now that the hurdle has been cleared, it’s up to Kanawha coaches and administrators to get the ball rolling on their individual plans to make sure they meet all protocols. SSAC guidelines for Phase 1 call for coaches to meet with groups of no more than 10 athletes at a time outdoors for one hour per day, while also following social distancing rules. Hand sanitizer must be available and equipment must be cleaned before it changes hands. No sports-specific drills can be held in either Phase 1 or 2.
“Each of our individual sports, we told them to start preplanning and get a plan together,’’ said George Washington Athletic Director Shawn Wheeler, “so I think most of my teams will be ready to go. They’ll have to submit a sanitizing plan to us, and myself and Dr. [George] Aulenbacher [GW’s principal] have to approve it.
“Realistically, my coaches anticipated it being passed today, but I don’t see many of them starting until Monday because it’s just too short of notice to try and get it started tomorrow or Friday.’’
Phase 2 of the SSAC plan runs from June 22-July 3 and allows coaches to meet with groups as large as 25 at a time, preferably outdoors, for as long as two hours per day. Phase 3 comprises the traditional three-week summer practice period, which several counties (including Kanawha and Putnam) have designated this year as July 6-25.
“All those schools have to comply with all of that,’’ board member Jim Crawford Sr. said of the SSAC guidelines, “and all schools have to have plans with their practices, and be supervised by their principals or whomever he directs to do that to make sure they comply with all components of Phase 1 and Phase 2.
“Anybody who fails to comply, the board has the option to revoke that privilege, as I understand it. We are not revoking the whole school’s privilege; it will be just that particular [sport].’’
As it turns out, Kanawha won’t be the only southern county to start Phase 1 later than others. Logan moved its opening day to Thursday, Greenbrier to June 15 and Wyoming to June 22. Some other counties, such as Berkeley and Marion, also did not start on Monday.
Cavender didn’t consider it an oversight that Kanawha didn’t meet to vote on approval until after the SSAC plan had actually started.
“No, that’s not the case at all,’’ he said. “I think the initial rationale was that [June 18] was our next scheduled board meeting, so the timing of our board meeting was what caused that. And that’s tough to explain to the public when they’re seeing all the other counties going ahead and being proactive.’’