By Marty Gordon
The original timetable from the Virginia High School League had basketball competition beginning Monday, Dec. 7, but for now that remains uncertain. What is not uncertain is that no fans will be allowed in the Montgomery County School System’s gymnasiums if the games are played.
That information was contained in a statement released Friday from Danny Knott, the Director of Human Resources for Montgomery County schools. Knott based the decisions on the governor’s latest round of restrictions on spectators at games.
“Game participants, administrative participants and cheerleaders will be allowed,” Knott’s statement said. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has reduced the number of spectators from 250 to 25 for in-person gatherings.
According to the VHSL, the reduction in public and private gatherings to 25 individuals applies to “spectators” and does not include participants at those events. The governor’s order defines “participants” as players, coaches, officials, school event staff and school administration critical to the operations of the contests, media, law enforcement, and medical services.
Cheerleaders, pep bands and other student support groups, are counted as spectators in the limit of 25 allowed at events.
But whether competition is held in the county in December could still be up in the air. “We have support from the NRHD (National Human Resource Development) to participate in athletics, and we also are following guidance that was developed by the Region 6 Superintendents (in Virginia),” Knott said. “We [began] practicing for our winter sports using Phase III guidance on Dec. 7 and can hopefully participate in competitions. Whether we hold competitions in December will be determined by following the Region 6 superintendents’ guidance. Currently, that guidance does not allow us to compete.”
If competition proceeds in Radford, there will be several special protocols in place.
According to Knott, there will be screening of participants before entering the school. “Social distancing of all participants and mask wearing (unless the participant is playing) is required,” Knott said. “If there is more than one game being played, the gym will be cleaned between games. We are following the VHSL Return to Play Guidelines.”
County schools have been following VHSL Phase III Guidance for out-of-season practice.
“Because of the current COVID situation, we will continue to follow this guidance as the winter regular season begins.” Knott said. “This will continue until our situation improves. These guidelines call for cleaning of equipment before and after practices, student/athletes using their own water bottles and towels and no sharing of these, and cleaning of the practice facility after the practice ends.”
In Radford, fans will be allowed at games, but they face the 25-maximum number. Radford Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert F. Graham said special protocols have been put in place to deal with COVID-19 for each game for players, coaches and staff. There will be social distancing, use of bleachers and masks on sidelines. “All of those plus touchless water fountains, assigned seats on the bleachers, extra basketballs to switch out during the end of quarters, halftime and timeouts, separate water bottles and other measures too,” Graham said.
As of right now, Radford city schools will move ahead with competition. However, Graham admits that could change in the next day, week or month.
Both school systems will follow strict protocols if or when any student-athlete or staff receive a positive COVID-19 test. Of course, all the questions surrounding basketball also affect several other winter sports. The VHSL previously announced a winter season for basketball, gymnastics, indoor track, swimming and diving, and wrestling that began Monday, Dec. 7, and continues through Feb. 20.