Durham, N.C. — The resumption of activities for basketball, cheerleading, field hockey, swimming & diving, football, boys soccer, and lacrosse teams in Durham Public Schools won’t happen any time soon, and the future of those sports is uncertain after the board of education rejected a proposal on Thursday to resume those sports.
During Thursday’s board meeting, the Durham Board of Education voted down a proposal that would have allowed schools to begin the next phase of sports activities. The vote failed by a 4-3 margin.
It is possible that the board could change its mind next month. The board meets on Dec. 17, and could address athletics again at that time.
Previously, the Durham Board of Education allowed volleyball and cross country to begin activity earlier this month.
“With the launch of reopening volleyball and cross country, I’m pleased to announce that athletic directors and coaches have done an outstanding job at adhering to our guidance,” district athletic director David Hackney said in a presentation to the board.
According to Hackney, 274 athletes are taking part in volleyball and cross country at Durham high schools, including 170 cross country runners and 104 volleyball players.
“We’re off to a smooth start,” he said, adding that the next phase of sports would follow the same guidelines as volleyball and cross country, adjusted to fit the specific needs of each school and facility.
The district surveyed coaches in field hockey, boys soccer, football, and lacrosse to judge their willingness to return to coaching during the coronavirus pandemic. According to Hackney, 98 percent of the coaches said they planned to return. He said the coaches who did not wish to return would not be penalized.
Hackney told the board that the district has seen some positive cases of COVID-19, but none of the cases resulted from participating in athletics. However, some board members still shared concerns about resuming athletics during the pandemic.
“It’s alarming to have these cases in our volleyball students already. I think we can parse out whether they were community cases or athletic cases, but either way they were student cases of COVID,” said board member Natalie Beyer, who also questioned why Durham Public Schools would allow some sports to resume when they’re considered high-risk sports by the Department of Health and Human Services.
“I know that it is alarming that we had some positive cases, but none of those cases came as a result of them performing in athletics, this was outside of athletics,” Hackney responded. “We want to be equitable with all of our student-athletes and give them an opportunity … We have protocols in place that we’re confident in.”
Beyer said she was not comfortable with resuming any contact sports in the school district though. She was one of four board members who voted against resuming sports.
Other board members said they could understand the positives of allowing student-athletes back on campus to practice and compete.
“I’m perplexed with this one, I’ll be honest. In my heart, I know I would not want my kids playing basketball … but at the same time, there’s always a feeling about when government is becoming big brother,” said board member Fredrick Rayin. “If they’re not playing basketball at school, they’re probably at an AAU game somewhere, even if they have to go out of state. Part of me is comforted in the fact that they’re doing it under supervision and doing it as safely as they can … Some of them need this option to open up other doors down the road.”
Swimming facilities still unavailable
Durham Public Schools continues to struggle to find swimming & diving facilities due to COVID-19.
“As we shared last meeting, DPS uses community swim facilities. During COVID, access to these facilities has been extremely limited,” Hackney said. “DPS reached out to Durham Parks & Recreation about reopening facilities for DPS practices and competition … we are awaiting a final decision. If we’re able to secure a space with Durham Parks & Recreation, we would ask the board to consider reopening swimming.”
There won’t be a recommendation to approve swimming until there is a facility available, Hackney added.