With an increasing number of athletes and coaches testing positive for COVID in recent days, Arlington Public Schools has opted to “pause” the winter athletic season for all high-school teams until at least Jan. 14.
That includes all games, events and practices.
The edict was handed down by Superintendent Francisco Duran, leaving many athletes disappointed.
“I think a better option would be to let us play and limit the number of fans, or something,” Yorktown High School senior girls varsity basketball player Emma Nelsen said. “I think taking away athletics and extracurricular activities won’t do anything. If they think sports is spreading COVID, then how about being in school? I would understand more why they are doing this more if they would pause athletics and in-person school.”
The positive tests already had caused some players to miss various competitions and some games, and multiple events to be postponed. The Wakefield High School boys basketball team did not compete in the annual George Long holiday tournament it hosted because of multiple positive COVID results.
Starting with the winter athletic season, all high-school athletes in Arlington have been tested for COVID every day. Many have been testing positive in recent days, as the easily transmissible but largely benign omicron variant worms its way through the U.S. population.
Students were left to wonder why Arlington decided to stop extracurricular activities when neighboring school districts did not.
“It’s so frustrating and unreasonable,” Washington-Liberty senior wrestler Jack Myers said. “We should not be on pause because we are tested every day and we are vaccinated, and that makes athletes safer than they were last year we weren’t tested or vaccinated, but some sports still were played. Plus, it does more damage and is bad for mental health when student-athletes aren’t allowed to compete, and can’t be productive the way they want to be. What makes those making this decision smarter than all the rest of us?”
On or before Jan. 14, the situation will be re-evaluated, with the pause possibly extended, officials said.
If not, teams will be allowed a few days to practice before playing in games or events. There may be an attempt to reschedule league contests missed during the pause.
“I was shocked they made this decision,” said Elijah Hughes, a starting junior center for the W-L boys varsity basketball team. “It doesn’t make any sense. Going to school every day you have more exposure in the classroom, because Arlington athletes are tested every day and we know if we have COVID and who does and who doesn’t. Now in the pause, athletes won’t be tested every day, and that could lead to more cases.”
One head coach of an Arlington winter varsity team said the daily testing probably led to the pause. Athletes in other area counties like Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William – are not tested daily.
The school system’s action will cause scheduling headaches within the Liberty District, where Arlington teams Wakefield, Washington-Liberty and Yorktown compete. If the edict ends, and games and events are not rescheduled, the results will not be counted as forfeits.
At least that’s the thinking for now.
Arlington coaches and athletes had mixed feelings about the pause. Some believe it was inevitable; others are disappointed, saying the COVID situations should be handled on a team-by-team basis and by not having a countywide ban.
Arlington schools have erred on the side of caution in the recent past regarding the COVID situation. During the past winter season, Arlington schools prevented girls gymnasts and indoor track and field athletes from participating in out-of-town postseason state competitions, and the wrestling season was canceled.
The gymnasts eventually were allowed to compete after significant protests from parents.