Padua field hockey celebrates a goal against Ursuline

Padua field hockey celebrates a goal against Ursuline

The Delaware State Board of Education voted to affirm the DIAA's decision to suspend the fall sports season until the second half of the school year.

In a 5-2 vote, board members gave the DIAA their requested ability to move the sports calendar around for this school year due to COVID-19 concerns, with the DIAA's tentative plan starting their schedule with winter sports in December, in a series of six-week competition windows with fall and spring to follow.

The board heard from a series of parents at the beginning of the meeting who spoke about the prevalence of youth tournaments and leagues taking place, and the possible mental health concerns if students couldn't compete for their school this fall.

DIAA Board of Directors President Dr. Bradley Layfield started his presentation by emphasizing that comparing youth sports and high school sports isn't completely fair.

"The definition of interscholastic athletics, we're education-based athletics. The education piece has to come first, and that's a big unknown for a lot of our schools that we're facing. We do want to provide whatever outlets we can."

DIAA's amended regulation put the board in the position of either voting to approve the delay, which would allow for out-of-season coaching before the new winter season begins in December, or to keep the previous regulation, which would have begun the normal fall season on Monday, except in football which would have only been allowed to have modified practices.

DIAA Executive Director Donna Polk said starting sports on Monday would not have made sense, and nearly impossible logistically.

"Even our athletic directors would want a mid-September start to be able to allow for the academic portion to be planned our thoroughly. There's a lot going on.... our schools would not be prepared on Monday."

School Board President Whitney Sweeney voted for the delay.

"I share concerns about not letting our kids play, and the mental health concerns, but at the end of the day... I think it's important we get off to the right foot with academics, because on the base level, that's why we are in school. I have to give a lot of weight to Superintendents, and their ability to be able, starting on Monday, whether I want to worry about getting a sport right or making sure kids are able to learn, whether at a desk or a computer at home."

Aubrey Noble also voted for the delay.

"I appreciate a lot of the feedback we got back from the community members, but I also feel that as schools open across the country, we are learning, unfortunately, that younger people are more susceptible to the virus than was first thought. Even professional teams with their abundant resources compared to K-12 schools have found protecting their teams a challenge."

Noble also cited one of the comments from a superintendent's survey that she said mirrored her own.

"The current environment is too unstable for me to put my coaches and students in harms way. I realize this is a hard decision and I do want to participate  , but I could not live with myself if someone from my school contracted the virus because I thought it was a good idea to play sports.' I too feel that way that I could not live myself if I put a student or coach or staff member's life at risk. I feel that it's important that everyone's health and safety be the utmost importance at this point in time."

Nina Lou Bunting was one of the two dissenters. 

"I feel that the young people and their parents know better what is best. A lot of them have been in their sport or athletics without a problem. I also feel like students are safer out on the field in the open air than they are in the classroom. I believe in the science that there are more problems with being shut down with the scare of this virus than other things like suicide."

The DIAA Board has been given the power to determine the dates of the three sports seasons, none of which have been set in stone at this point.

Football and wrestling continue to have no guidance for competition from the Department of Public Health, although DIAA is expecting to get updates every six weeks on whether that changes.