High school athletes in Orange County Schools will be soon able to start playing for the first time since March.
The Orange County Schools Board of Education met Monday to discuss high school athletics, drivers education and the start of a hybrid spring semester. Three motions, all in favor of increasing in-person student activities, were passed Monday night.
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High school athletics
At the meeting, Executive Director of Schools Jason Johnson said 83.6 percent of traditional public high schools in North Carolina have returned to athletics or approved a plan to do so. Orange High School Athletic Trainer Emily Gaddy fielded questions from members about the return of high school sports in the area.
Gaddy said that as players return to sports, they will have to wear a face mask on campus, bring their own water bottle for personal use, complete a North Carolina High School Athletic Association COVID-19 initial screening and be monitored for their health each day of practice or competition.
The board also discussed whether masks should be worn during practice and competition. Board member Sarah Smylie advocated for the use of masks more frequently during play.
Gaddy said there is a CDC and World Health Organization recommendation that athletes not wear masks during vigorous exercise.
“For me, it's a fine balance between making sure that we aren't doing something that is going to cause me to have to deal with another medical emergency further down the road,” Gaddy said.
However, the Board moved to approve athletics with masks required at all times, with medical exceptions to be addressed individually at a later date.
Volleyball and cross country teams will begin workouts Wednesday in preparation for tryouts on Nov. 4.
With schools closed, high school students in Orange County have been left with limited options for completing their driver's education. In-person driver's education courses were halted, causing many parents who could afford it to hire private teachers.
Board member Carrie Doyle noted this imbalance of driver's education as an equity issue for OCS students.
“I do see this as an equity issue because the costs of the private classes are so expensive,” she said.
At the meeting, the Board moved to begin driver's education on Oct. 14.
Johnson and driver's education coordinator Buddy Hartley informed the Board of the safety precautions that will be taken as in-person driving begins.
A few of these safety precautions include:
- One driver and instructor in the car at once
- Masks worn at all times
- Windows slightly open to allow for air flow
- Temperature checks
Hybrid education in the spring
In a September meeting, the Board voted for most elementary, middle and high school students to return to in-person instruction in January and February.
On Monday, the Board reviewed and passed arrival and dismissal times for students opting in to in-person instruction in 2021.
These arrival and dismissal times allow for student screening before class begins and additional time for remote learners' support. Elementary, middle and high school students in the district will be given the option to operate on a hybrid schedule that rotates weekly.
Board Chair Hillary MacKenzie urged everyone to be careful, wear masks and sanitize their hands.
“Make us glad we made this decision,” Mackenzie said.
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