Plans to return to VHSL competition are underway for Prince William County Public School (PWCS) high school athletes.
Following the guidance provided by Governor Northam’s Executive Order 67, the Virginia High School League (VHSL), and the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), PWCS plans to have students and coaches return for season one (winter sports) on December 7 for basketball and cheerleading.
PWCS is planning for other winter sports to start on December 14.
"Students should check their school websites for tryout information, including health and safety requirements necessary for participation. This will allow the VHSL “Championship + 1” schedule to begin playing in December as scheduled."
The latest executive order from Governor Northam indicates the need to limit capacities in gyms to the lesser of 30 percent of the occupancy load of the certificate of occupancy for the venue, if applicable, or 25 spectators per field (court). Based on current local health metrics, PWCS will only have remote spectators for athletic competitions.
"We know how enthusiastic many PWCS families and fans are regarding our student activity programs and understand this decision will be disappointing to many. We believe it is in the best interests of all to start season one this way, out of an abundance of caution and to take measures to do all we can to ensure that competitive play can continue for our student athletes," said a PWCS spokesperson.
PWCS has not made any decision about spectators in seasons two (fall sports) or three (spring sports). These decisions will be made later as the administration will continue to monitor local health data, health mitigation strategies, and other factors.
"Beginning without spectators will allow us to acclimate our schools to the new mitigation strategies for teams, cheerleaders, officials, medical personnel, and event staff," said the PWCS spokesperson. "The successful implementation of the mitigation strategies will provide our student athletes the best opportunity to participate in competitions throughout their respective athletic season and reduce the chances of schedules being impacted by inadvertent exposure to the COVID-19 virus."
Alternate Way to View PWCS VHSL Sporting Events
However, there are ways for spectators to view local PWCS sporting events.
Through a cooperative arrangement with the NFHS Network, PWCS has installed two Pixellot cameras at every PWCS high school. The Pixellot cameras are unmanned, computer-controlled panoramic cameras that bring automated live and on-demand coverage of non-televised high school sports to audiences around the country.
The cameras use algorithms to automatically produce and broadcast sports contests and highlights in high definition. PWCS agreed to install these cameras to provide alternative viewing access for family members who otherwise could not attend athletic events.
Anyone can subscribe to the NFHS Network and enjoy full access to most PWCS high school athletic events, as well as high school sports from around the nation. The fee for this family subscription service is $10.99 a month, or $69.99 annually for unlimited games. This rate is a substantial savings compared to the in-person ticket price of $7 per person, per game.
To subscribe to the NFHS Network, please visit the NFHS Network website. Enter (SCHOOL NAME) in the search box. Click “Follow” so you can stay up to date on all upcoming (MASCOT) broadcasted events. Click “Subscribe” for all subscription options for your school.
"PWCS is committed to providing our students with opportunities that can be safely accomplished. We recognize the importance of extracurricular activities not only to physical health, but to social, mental, and emotional well-being as well."
It is important to note that the VHSL 2020-21 Guidance to Return to Participation, indicates that the more people a child or coach interacts with, the closer the physical interaction, the more sharing of equipment by multiple players, and the longer the interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread. Therefore, the risk of COVID-19 transmission can be different depending on the type of activity.
In addition, the VDH has cautioned that during times of substantial COVID-19 activity in a community, participating in recreational sports that involve close contact with others may increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission and is not advisable.
This is especially true with large events, indoor activities, and higher-risk sports. For these reasons, PWCS will continue to closely monitor the local health data and may postpone or suspend all or some activities during periods of substantial COVID-19 transmission in the community or schools.
If you have any questions, please reach out to Ken Bassett, director of student learning for PWCS, at Bassettke@pwcs.edu, or Kelly Gardner, the supervisor of student activities, at Gardnekm1@pwcs.edu.