Sumter School District yet to announce start date for sports to begin workouts


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The fall sports teams at the three Sumter School District high schools still do not know when - or if - they will be able to start any sort of practice for the upcoming school year after a Board of Trustees meeting held on Monday.

While an announcement was made in a press statement released following the meeting that schools throughout the district would begin on Aug. 17 in a virtual setting, a start date for Phase 1 workouts for Sumter, Crestwood and Lakewood from the coronavirus pandemic has not been set despite a lot of time spent studying the situation by administrators, athletic directors, principals and coaches.

"In terms of athletics, Sumter School District administrators, athletic directors, principals, and coaches have been working carefully to develop a well-planned, intentional document that includes best practices for minimization of COVID-19 transmission during workouts, training, or competition," Dr. Penelope E. Martin-Knox said in the statement. "However, due to the increase of COVID-19 cases in our community and state, Sumter School District is postponing the start of athletic practices and workouts. No potential start date for athletics has been determined at this time.

"The safety of our students and staff will always remain at the forefront of every decision that is made. We will continue to monitor the number of COVID-19 cases in our area in conjunction with the Governor's Office, State Department of Education, DHEC, CDC, and the South Carolina High School League.

The spring sports season for the 2019-20 school year was suspended by the South Carolina High School League in the middle of the March due to the outbreak and was never restarted.

The SCHSL announced at the end of May the state's public schools could begin summer workouts for the 2020-21 school year. It left it up to the respective districts or schools as to when the workouts could start. The SCHSL didn't offer a suggested start date, instead saying schools may begin activities when it permits academic group activities on campus.

Phase 1 allowed weightlifting and conditioning workouts for student-athletes in pods of no more than 10 student-athletes and coaches. All of it was to be done under strict guidelines of social distancing, cleaning and disinfecting.

East Clarendon began workouts on June 8, while Manning began on June 15. Manning had two weeks of workouts before shutting them down after its June 28 practice due to the increased number of positive tests for coronavirus in the past two weeks.

The SCHSL released a 3-stage plan which included a number of restrictions. It has yet to allow schools to move on to Phase 2.