top of page

School shutdown is no shock

Updated: Nov 27, 2020

Nobody likes to hear “I told you so,” but sometimes it is the only thing you can say.

Way back in September, I was being crucified by the public for suggesting Warren County athletes choose the VIP program and stay home. I predicted then that when the WC School System decided – foolishly – to abandon the hybrid schedule and move to a more traditional schedule, it would cause a lot of issues based on contact tracing and quarantines.

People said I was crazy, mostly using the same rhetoric – if they can’t go to school, then they shouldn’t play sports. That was a ridiculous argument then and it feels even more off base now as Warren County High School and Warren County Middle School have decided to push all its students to the virtual program for at least the next 19 days (which includes a lengthy Thanksgiving break).

It was one month exactly between the date schools went back to having all students in the building (Oct. 12) to the day WCHS and WCMS announced it would send all its students to virtual learning (begins tomorrow, Nov. 12). Who would have predicted this would happen? Oh yeah, I did.

My logic was simple – the kids who are involved in sports have been training for months and years to prepare for their season. It was obvious they were going to do whatever it took to keep their seasons alive – wearing masks, socially distancing, etc. The rest of the student body may not be as dedicated to the cause and all it would take is one case to send multiple kids home.

Well, today WCHS announced it would be sending all 1,900 of its students home. The whole student body will be at the house – and sports will cease until at least Thursday, Nov. 19 – due to (reportedly) 20 current positive tests. That’s 1 percent of the student body.

Asking around with the WCHS teams, I’ve yet to find a coach who can (or will) confirm one of its players has tested positive at any time. I’m almost 100 percent certain no player from the Pioneer varsity football team tested positive in the last 15-16 weeks, when Warren County was one of the few teams in the state to finish its season without ever missing a game.

Actually, it’s interesting to bring up the football team. Why does it feel like this athletic ban – starting tomorrow and lasting until at least next Thursday, Nov. 19 – would be a bit more lax if the Pioneers had beaten Mt. Juliet last Friday? Something tells me Warren County would be suiting up against Oakland this Friday no matter what – or else Matt Turner would start a local revolt.

It’s not like there isn’t precedence for playing sports during virtual-only learning. Anybody who followed football closely knows Oakland shut down its high school the week the Patriots came to play the Pioneers at Nunley Stadium. As the Rutherford County school system reported at the time, virtual learning was not going to impact the ability to play sports.

In fact, virtual learning hasn’t impacted the ability for athletes to play sports all year at Warren County. As long as students were in good standing academically – either in the classroom or virtually – this fall, they have been able to play. We have several athletes doing virtual learning, most notably Mr. Football candidate CJ Taylor.

If they could play sports while doing virtual learning before, then why does a school-wide virtual learning mandate stop sports now? It doesn’t make much sense. You can’t govern groups of 15-30 people the same way you do a mass of 1,900, especially when those 15-30 student athletes have additional incentive to do whatever it takes to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

It seems the local system is starting to come to grips with the idea that each of our schools - and situations - are different. In Wednesday’s statement, there was no mention of sending Irving College and its 200-300 kids home. That’s because Irving College has the ability to spread kids out in the classroom. I talked to one teacher there who said their biggest class would probably be 25 kids.

At the high school, they routinely have 30-plus students in a classroom. And here’s the kicker, even if every single person in the room is wearing a mask, if a student in that classroom later tests positive, you still have to quarantine. Even with detailed seating charts to do contact tracing, it’s impossible to avoid quarantine if you can’t get six feet apart - mask or no mask.

Again, I don’t understand how the WC school board couldn’t see this coming back in October. Moreover, I think they did. Bill Zechman said at the meeting he was concerned with how few masks he saw at Nunley Stadium during games this fall, pondering out loud if we were taking this seriously enough as a community when it came to large gatherings.

Within minutes, the school board unanimously decided to assemble the largest daily gatherings in McMinnville – sending thousands of students back into buildings, none bigger than the 1,900 kids at Warren County High School.

The WCHS basketball teams were scheduled to tip-off next Tuesday, Nov. 17 at home against Community, but that will no longer happen. As of right now, I know a few of the Pioneers are quarantined, but none have tested positive. Same for the Lady Pioneers.

WCHS athletic director Todd Willmore said in a statement today that the Pioneers and Lady Pioneers are still scheduled to play next Friday, Nov. 20 against Moore County if no additional concerns arise. Hopefully none do, but it still leaves the teams taking the court after eight straight days of no practices. It’s not the best set up to start the season, though I’m sure Anthony Lippe and Chris Sullens will gladly take it if it means getting on the court.

If I could make one suggestion to the school board as it works toward reopening schools Monday, Nov. 30, it would be this – please reopen the VIP program registration once again. And again, all athletes – and really, any kid who wants to avoid the possibility of forced quarantine for a few weeks – join the program.

As I said almost two months ago, you can choose VIP for yourself, or you can head to it when they shut schools down. I’d just get the head start.

359 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page