Johnson City Schools BOE approves plan to allow fall sports to proceed, players to sign pledge

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – The Johnson City Schools Board of Education Monday voted to approve all sports this upcoming fall.

The board voted 6-1 to allow for athletes to play this fall with board chair and Vice President of Ballad Health Tim Belisle being the only “no” vote.

“Us proceeding to allow the contact sports,” Belisle said just before the vote. “That’s an inconsistent position for us given the fact that we’re currently not allowing our students to be in a classroom and learning.”

Board member Kathy Hall had some reservation due to crowd size.

The board voted unanimously to approve amendments to the original motion to approve contact sports in the fall.

The board also voted unanimously that students will be required to sign a waiver before playing sports to follow the TSSAA guidelines or won’t be allowed to play.

Johnson City Schools Superintendent Dr. Steve Barnett said he received a great deal of feedback from the community regarding all fall sports, adding how much he appreciated it.

Board Member Jonathan Kinnick moved that the board approve a plan for all fall contact sports.

Less than 50 percent of attendees will be permitted, according to the plan, with two seats in between families. Seats will also be assigned.

Board member Robert Williams said he only had one person reach out asking to not have fall sports. He believes this plan can work and the kids deserve for them to at least try to have fall sports.

Hall made a motion that contact sports continue as long as only direct contacts of players are permitted to attend. That measure failed to gain a second.

The school board Chairman Belisle addressed the social-distanced crowd at the beginning of the meeting, telling them that only fall sports would be impacted by the board’s decision, no other seasonal sports.

A meeting will be held on Wednesday to discuss live-streaming school events to limit crowd sizes.

Ahead of the vote, the board heard from parents and a middle school student athlete.

“Risk is a part of everyday life and with the pandemic safeguards that have been introduced and followed, I believe we can begin our sports season safely,” said Liberty Bell Middle School volleyball player Addison Stables. “The absence of normalcy has taken a toll on me and many other student-athletes’ mental and physical well being.”

That plan is lengthy and detailed according to Athletic Director, Keith Turner.

“It’s detailed from locker rooms to transportation to what the trainers do, the coaches do, the players… taking temperatures of fans coming into the stadium…all those types of things,” Turner said.

If a coach or athlete tests positive, the first step is contact tracing.

“You work with your local health department to determine who all they have been around and those guidelines have changed,” Turner said. “The one that tests positive has to stay out at least ten days. The people that were around them actually stay out 14 days.”

Fans will also be required to don a different type of spirit wear- masks whether they are indoors or outside.

“They’re going to have their temperature checked before they enter into any facility and if that temperature is 100.4 or above they cannot enter,” Turner said. “There will be signage up leading up to the entries about different symptoms… They’ll also be required to social distance with people other than their family.”

For football players, they are just thankful the Friday night lights will be on at the stadium when they play David Crockett on August 28th.

“We wanted to show how much it meant to us. We talked about this at practice actually as we were leaving practice,” said senior kicker Cade Hensley. “We need to show up and show our support and show that we do want to be out there and we’re willing to whatever it takes.”

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