Wednesday, 30 September 2020 10:48

RCS officials to wait for in-school instruction before returning middle school athletics

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ROSports file photo from the 2019 Rockingham-Hamlet football game. ROSports file photo from the 2019 Rockingham-Hamlet football game. Kyle Pillar — Sports Editor.

HAMLET — With the forthcoming return of high school athletics on the near horizon, Richmond County’s middle school athletes will have to wait a little bit longer.


During the Richmond County Board of Education meeting Tuesday, it was decided that all athletic programs at the four county middle schools (Cordova, Ellerbe, Hamlet and Rockingham) will be put on hold until students are back in the classroom.

Dennis Quick, Richmond County Schools’ associate superintendent, explained others involved in the decision-making process included superintendent Dr. Jeff Maples and the members of the BOE. 

Also discussing the county’s return-to-play plan were the athletic directors at each middle school: Gerald Ratliff (Cordova), Allen Adeimy (Ellerbe), Michelle Denson (Hamlet) and Amanda Gainey (Rockingham).

The four ADs, along with their respective principals, met with Quick on Monday to discuss returning local sixth, seventh and eighth graders to action. 

“We are waiting for students to return to face-to-face instruction,” Quick said in an email to the RO. “We have decided to begin middle school sports when our middle school students are back in the classroom.

“Our feeder program for athletics is important to us. However, it is extremely important that we get our middle schools operating again as we seek ‘normalcy’,” he added.

Middle school sports haven’t been played in Richmond County since mid March, when the decision was made by the state to send instruction online. 

While several programs at Richmond Senior High School have been given the green light to conduct voluntary workouts (beginning in early August), no such workouts have occurred at the middle school level.

Because of COVID-19, Richmond County Schools is following Plan B, which sees a limited number of students attend in-school instruction, while most are virtual learners. 

Quick noted that the tentative plan is to follow the path laid out by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (which does not, however, govern middle school sports).

“Based on current information, we will begin middle school athletics around Nov. 7, the date determined by the NCHSAA for high school athletics,” Quick explained. “Our schedules will parallel that of high school sports as much as possible.  

“Having said that, we can expect football to be played in the spring.”

Adeimy said one possibility would see the return of volleyball and co-ed cross country in Nov., which is the same as the NCHSAA schedule. Hoke County Schools is beginning its middle school volleyball season the first week of Nov., which could lead to other programs across the Southeastern Middle School Conference to start.

Another option, according to Adeimy, is that middle school athletics may resume against in-county opponents only. As coronavirus cases potentially improve, and less restrictions are in place, he said that may open the door to playing other middle schools within the conference (Anson, Hoke and Scotland counties).

Quick addressed some of the challenges with returning middle school sports, saying personnel and sanitation stations are among the top concerns.

“We are challenged by COVID-19 tracking, sanitization stations and temperature checking,” Quick said. “We always have challenges with getting personnel for coaching, but the most striking challenges are our COVID-related issues and participation in athletics by surrounding counties.”

 

This is a developing story. ROSports will update it as more information is made available.

Kyle Pillar

Three-time award-winning sports editor. Indiana University of Pennsylvania communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

Submit local sports scores to: kpillar@richmondobserver.com

Twitter: ROSports_