Plug pulled… County school board votes to suspend all sports and extra-curricular activities

Published 11:26 pm Thursday, August 6, 2020

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In a called Carter County School Board meeting on Thursday evening, a tough decision was made in regards to sports and extracurricular activities at all county schools as a result of the increase in COVID-19 cases in the county.
After a decision was made to go all virtual on August 24th, the board debated long and hard on how to handle contact sports like football and by the time the discussion was completed the decision was finally made that all sports including golf, football, cheerleading, and band would not be allowed to continue until students could safely return to school.
That also included youth sports at local schools and meetings of school clubs.
Board member David Buck made the initial motion to suspend athletics and extracurricular activity until students can safely return as well.
The board spent a lengthy amount of time talking about the importance of protecting the community and while the decision might not be a popular one especially to those who support football, it would be a counterproductive message sent to the community that it was okay to play sports when students could not attend school.
“Unless you have had to deal closely with someone who has contacted COVID-19, you would not understand what it is like,” said board member Danny Ward. “Even in golf, these kids would have to ride in a car or bus together to play.
“We owe it to our community to protect everyone.”
Tony Garland urged his fellow board members just not to pull the plug on the entire football season but rather see if the virus settles down to a point where an in-person school could return along with the resumption of sports.
“I wouldn’t even mind if the four schools in the county had to play each other in the spring,” said Garland. “There are a lot of seniors who would miss out on their final year.
“I know in baseball, some schools bought t-shirts and sent kids to play baseball over at Cardinal Park in Johnson City without being associated with their school but you just can’t do that with football.”
Even though the decision was a gut-wrenching decision for the board, it was even more so for coaches and players who have been working out in the weight room and in conditioning to get prepared for the 2020 season.
Just last week Tennessee Governor Bill Lee gave the go-ahead for contact sports to resume and most were working their way into helmets and shoulder pads in getting acclimated to the heat.
Happy Valley head coach Jason Jarrett made the decision to cancel the rest of this week’s practices out of precaution more than anything. There were no Warriors who had tested positive at this time.
Two other school systems have shut down their football due to positive tests locally in Greeneville Middle School and High School along with Sullivan North.
One local coach said even though the decision was a gut-punch initially, ultimately the board made the right call.
“It was a logical decision and makes perfect sense,” said Unaka head football coach O’Brien Bennett. “We are an extension of the school. If we can’t do education, how do we justify sports?
“I hate it for the kids but it was a good decision.”
Bennett further said that he hates it for all his seniors who are a special group not just because of football but because they have worked hard since their freshman year and haven’t missed but maybe one practice between them.
It did, however, bring comfort somewhat that the board didn’t completely shut down football altogether.
“I am glad that there is still a possibility that we may get to play at a later date with partial schedules or possible within our county.”
The board will have another meeting in two weeks at which time they will re-evaluate where the county stands as far as COVID-19 and whether to keep athletics shut down or not.

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