The Fayette County Board of Education on Monday accepted their district athletic director’s recommendation that its high school teams be allowed to play in accordance with the recently adopted guidelines from the Kentucky High School Athletic Association.
“Our school athletic directors and coaches have been doing a fantastic job based on the data and will continue to do so if given the opportunity,” District AD Robbie Sayre said in his recommendation. “They understand it only takes one person to mess this up for everyone. We want to make sure our kids are safe. We want to make sure our families are comfortable. We understand that there’s a lot riding on this.”
Sayre recapped Fayette’s team statistics from more than a month of conditioning over the summer under coronavirus guidelines. With 1,681 athletes and thousands of workouts, there have been only 11 confirmed COVID-19 cases and none of those connected to the workouts themselves, Sayre said. They all came from external activities.
“We all know that it is good for kids both physically and mentally to be engaged in (sports in) a safe, controlled environment,” Sayre said, noting that he had seen his own daughter’s demeanor improve since she’s been involved with her team. “And I want all of our families to have that feeling.”
Superintendent Manny Caulk concurred with the recommendation and assured the board that “nothing is final” and the district could correct if the COVID situation worsens.
“Obviously, if we see a spike or something happens that causes an increase of COVID-19 cases as a result of workouts or things that we’re not doing properly, then we will certainly stop practice, etc.,” Caulk said. “But we believe this is in the best interest of the students. The student athletes and coaches have demonstrated up until this point the ability to adhere to the guidelines, to enact those safety measures … in order to keep our coaches and student athletes safe.”
Board members discussed concerns over fan attendance, transportation, volleyball protocols and noncompliance with safety guidelines. Sayre advised that districts are awaiting guidance from the KHSAA on many of those issues, including how best to accommodate volleyball, as it is an indoor sport. The KHSAA has discussed clearing and cleaning gyms between volleyball games. As for transportation, only Fayette football teams typically use buses, and Fayette is working with teams on alternatives, Sayre said.
District 1’s Christy Morris recommended a tip line for those who have rules or safety concerns about how coaches and players are following the coronavirus guidelines. Sayre said he would pursue that idea immediately.
Vice chairman Raymond Daniels commended coaches and players for following the rules this summer.
“It’s working, so far,” Daniels said. “We have to give them the leeway to try it. It’s our responsibility if we see things that aren’t working.”
A number of student athletes and their parents gathered outside the Fayette County Public Schools’ Central Office before Monday’s meeting to show their support for allowing their teams to play.
“We’re here to show our support for student athletes, to let them go ahead and play,” said Bryan Henderson, who said three of his children are student athletes in Fayette County.
“It’s hard to swallow that we can have hundreds of people in bars and restaurants and movie theaters … and with a very controlled environment with student athletes that we can’t have them play, outdoors even,” Henderson said.
Earlier Monday, Gov. Andy Beshear said he would allow high school sports to move forward this fall under the plan adopted last week by the Kentucky High School Athletic Association. Beshear admonished school districts to be mindful of the health and safety of their student athletes amid the pandemic.
The KHSAA’s decision allows practices for football, soccer, volleyball, field hockey, cross country, cheer and dance to begin this week. Golf, as a low-contact, low coronavirus risk sport, has been allowed to play its normal schedule.
Players and parents held up signs during a rally in support of fall high school sports on Monday at the Fayette County Public Schools building in Lexington. Michael Clubb
Under the KHSAA plan, competitions for most sports can begin Sept. 7 with football kickoffs on Sept. 11. Detailed guidelines about what protocols teams will have to follow is expected this week. It will include guidance on spectators and other game issues.
However, Fayette’s Central Office put a hold on its sports teams’ plans to move forward with the KHSAA plan until the board could discuss its options.
Sayre emphasized that school coaches and athletic directors would use discretion about athlete safety and cancel any activities or games they felt put them at risk.
Some of Fayette’s schools have already canceled football games during the first two weeks of the season. Henry Clay canceled its Sept. 11 game against Pulaski County and its Sept. 18 game against Frederick Douglass. Tates Creek canceled its Sept. 11 game against North Hardin. Other possible changes to Fayette high school schedules are not clear at this time.
Later Monday, the Jefferson County Board of Education was scheduled to discuss how its teams would move forward as well. Proposals for public school teams that include Male, Ballard and Manual among others also called for canceling games in the first few weeks of the season, allowing more time for practice ahead of a shortened season.
Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader