Donovan McMillon

Donovan McMillon, now a Peters Township High School senior, puts a hold on Seneca Valley’s Ryan Weinzen during a tournament in 2019

Peters Township School Board voted Monday to approve an extracurricular health and safety plan for the winter sports season, a 23-page document containing extensive precautionary measures against the spread of COVID-19.

The action paves the way for competition in wrestling, despite its identification as a “high-risk” sport by the PIAA.

Two board members, Minna Allison and Rebecca Bowman, voted against the measure. They favored action that would have excluded wrestling, the only “high-risk” activity among winter sports that also include basketball, cheerleading, indoor track and swimming and diving.

One safety measure recommended in the plan is conducting practices and workouts in “pods,” small groups of the same students, to help ensure limited exposure.

That type of procedure has worked on the collegiate level, according to the Rev. Jamison Hardy, a school board member whose son, Noah, wrestles for Concordia University Wisconsin.

“They’ve been doing it for a month, and they have not had a single issue of COVID-19,” Jamison Hardy said. “The NCAA has figured out that this ‘pod’ style of wrestling for practice works, and it’s very effective.”

Hardy, who has volunteered as a Peters Township wrestling coach, spoke out against the sport being labeled as “high-risk,” contending other scholastic competitive activities also provide plenty of opportunity for contact.

Bowman said she agrees “pods” can be effective as an isolation technique during practice.

“My concern is wrestling with students from other schools in uncontrolled or, certainly, less-controlled environments than ours,” she said.

The PIAA and WPIAL have strict guidelines about reporting COVID-19 cases, according to Peters Township athletic director Brian Geyer

“Most of the teams that we play, we have good relationships with those schools,” he said. “Everybody is taking it, from what I’ve seen, as seriously as we are. And they’re reporting those cases to us immediately, as we are when we have a potential case.”

The health and safety plan was drafted using a considerable amount of input from coaches of winter sports, and they are ready to make modifications as necessary, Geyer noted.

Answers to frequently asked questions are presented as part of the plan, stating in part:

What if athletes, participants, coaches, sponsors or staff members are sick?

  • If they are sick or think they are infected with the COVID-19 virus, they must stay at home. If they think they have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever and symptoms, they should call their healthcare provider for medical advice.
  • Caregivers should monitor their children for symptoms prior to any extra-curricular activity or sport.
  • The athletic director or principal will immediately inform the district’s pandemic coordinator, assistant superintendent Michael Fisher, and Superintendent Jeannine French. It will be determined if others who may have been exposed need to be notified, isolated, and/or monitored for symptoms.
  • If a positive case of COVID-19 is diagnosed, local health professionals and/or governmental agencies will implement contact tracing. All subsequent directives will be followed.

What if a student or staff members becomes ill with COVID-19 symptoms during practice, an event, or transportation to or from an event?

  • A coach, sponsor or athletic trainer will make every effort to isolate the ill individual from others, until the student or staff member can leave the school or event.
  • If a student is sick, the parent or guardian will be contacted immediately, and arrangements will be made for the student to be picked up.
  • The ill individual will be asked to contact his or her physician or appropriate healthcare professional for direction. The facility, where the sick individual was present, will be disinfected immediately.

How will a student or staff return to athletics or extracurricular activity following a COVID-19 diagnosis?

  • The student or staff member must provide written medical clearance from his or her medical doctor or certified registered nurse practitioner before resuming any athletic activity.
  • Once a diagnosed individual is determined by a medical doctor or CRNP to be non-contagious, fever-free, has vast improvement in respiratory symptoms and experiences no vomiting or diarrhea, the student or staff member may participate in athletics again.
  • A student may return to a non-athletic extracurricular activity after testing positive only if the student would be permitted to attend in-person educational instruction.

What happens if a district building is required to close because of COVID cases?

No athletic or extracurricular activities or meetings are permitted unless, after consultation with the Department of Health, the superintendent determines it is safe to participate in the activity after notifying the school board.

Multimedia Reporter

Staff writer Harry Funk, a professional journalist for three-plus decades, has been on the staff of The Almanac since 2015. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master of business administration, both from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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