Local high school sports programs facing COVID-19 hurdles despite being given green light

Pine Richland parents, students hold rally ahead of vote on fall sports

PITTSBURGH — Several local high school sports programs are facing COVID-19 hurdles despite the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association giving them the green light to have a fall season.

The PIAA gave the green light to schools across the state on Friday with a vote of 25-5. The vote came despite the recommendation from Gov. Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Levine that sports seasons should be postponed due to COVID-19.

The Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League will send its guidelines to schools on Tuesday, including how to handle cancellations in the event of COVID-19 cases. Schools are being asked to let WPIAL know if they’re playing by Sept. 1.

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PINE RICHLAND

Pine Richland School Board members approved a revised health and safety plan for athletics and activities, but with restrictions.

The district has been following a phased-in approach to athletics and activities.

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If the district is following a hybrid model for school studies, which it is, school sports will happen only if certain restrictions are followed. The restrictions are even greater for football because it's a high-risk sport. If at any point the district chooses to transition from a hybrid model to only virtual learning, school sports will stop.

Some recommended restrictions discussed included no spectators at games, splash guards, a health inspector of sorts, monitoring athletic activity and temperature checks before practice and games.

If the rules aren’t followed, school leaders can shut it down.

Pine Richland School District approves sports plan

UNIONTOWN

Uniontown high school soccer players Skyler Hone and Dalton Grimes heard the PIAA announce fall sports could move forward. But the superintendent said football and soccer were not happening.

“As soon as we found out, it was like that heartbreak, it hits you,” one student said.

“Not getting to play is like a kick in your face,” another said.

Only football and soccer are impacted. Athletes gathered at the high school Monday to urge superintendent Dr. Charles Machesky to reconsider.

“The governor strongly recommended canceling all sports until January. Even though the PIAA approved playing they are currently researching the potential liability involved should the worst case scenario unfold. I made a recommendation to our directors based on concerns for the safety of students and their families and the community. This position is unpopular with some of those affected but in the end it will be impossible to know if we overreacted or did too much, but it will be quite apparent if we under acted or did too little,” Machesky told Channel 11.

Athletes urge Uniontown superintendent to not suspend football, soccer seasons

ELIZABETH FORWARD

The superintendent of Elizabeth Forward schools, Todd Keruskin, confirmed to Channel 11 that a student tested positive for the coronavirus, and the football team was dealing with a possible exposure. The student and the football team are quarantining for 14 days, and the district is working with the Allegheny County Health Department. Keruskin said all players and families were contacted, and this was the first time the district was dealing with this issue.

MT. LEBANON

Officials with the Mt. Lebanon School District said a student involved in the football program had tested positive for COVID-19. The student had not participated in any practices or events since Tuesday. The program was temporarily suspended through Sept. 1, and school officials urged students and families to watch for on any potential symptoms that pop up.

Mt. Lebanon suspends football program after student tests positive for COVID-19

BEAVER AREA

The Beaver Area School District voted to move forward with fall sports.

The school board approved the plan set forth by the PIAA.

The band and cheerleaders will only be allowed at home games to avoid exceeding the 250-person limit, and parents are being asked to fill out a waiver to allow student-athletes to participate and waive the district’s liability if their child were to get COVID-19.

WHAT THE WPIAL, ALLEGHENY CO. HEALTH DEPARTMENT ARE SEEING

WPIAL officials sent guidelines to schools Tuesday about the adjustments they’ll have to make if a team has a positive COVID-19 case, which they do expect to happen over the course of the fall season. The Allegheny County Health Department reported it is seeing a large increase in cases related to school programs.

Since May, ACHD has identified 50 cases among students and staff in several different districts. About 75% of the cases related to sports programs have been reported since the start of August. WPIAL officials said they believe most of the cases are coming from outside of sports.

“I’m not aware of any that were actually contracted through sports. They were just athletes who had contracted the virus outside of sports, so I do see a lot of that potentially happening in the future, but if they remain true to their plans, hopefully the spread doesn’t happen in the actual sporting event,” Executive Director Amy Scheuneman said.

WPIAL officials are giving schools until Sept. 1 to decided if they play this fall or opt out.

WPIAL, ACHD keeping a close eye on high school sports' COVID-19 safety
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