DeKalb Schools hosts town hall on how district is handling sports

(Left to right) Randy Britt, Kaece Supples, Keeman Hayes and Travis Davis run one-on-ones during an unsanctioned player-led football practice on Thursday, June 4, 2020, at Tucker High School in Tucker, Georgia. The players planned the off-season practice despite uncertainty surrounding the upcoming football season amid coronavirus concerns. CHRISTINA MATACOTTA FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION
(Left to right) Randy Britt, Kaece Supples, Keeman Hayes and Travis Davis run one-on-ones during an unsanctioned player-led football practice on Thursday, June 4, 2020, at Tucker High School in Tucker, Georgia. The players planned the off-season practice despite uncertainty surrounding the upcoming football season amid coronavirus concerns. CHRISTINA MATACOTTA FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Christina Matacotta

Credit: Christina Matacotta

High school coaches in DeKalb County are pushing masks in weight rooms, social distancing when possible and considering community water banks with individual cups to reduce the risk of their athletes spreading the coronavirus.

James Jackson, the DeKalb County School District’s executive director of athletics, said the biggest responsibility is on the students and their families.

“Unlike colleges and pros where they test every day or every other day, we can’t test our kids,” Jackson said. “So we’ve got to trust parents and kids to do the right things away from us.”

School district leaders were joined by Sandra Ford, DeKalb Board of Health director, for nearly an hour on Tuesday to discuss athletics in the age of the coronavirus and steps being taken by the district to keep students safe. School begins for DeKalb students on Aug. 17, but summer conditioning drills began in June, three months after school buildings were closed and activities were abruptly halted to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Ironically, the event where officials discussed the return of face-to-face sports was held via video chat, with speakers patched in from different parts of the district headquarters and other respective locations.

Ford said the state has nearly reached 200,000 coronavirus cases since testing began earlier this year. About 10 percent of those cases came in the 12-day period between July 21 and Aug. 2.

“These times are unprecedented,” Ford said. “This is a problem because we are continuing to see an upward trend.”

The state is currently seeing about 2,500 new cases each day. In DeKalb, 55% of new COVID-19 cases are folks 19-44 years old. While the initial focus was on a more vulnerable 60-and-over crowd, the residual impact from the virus as people continue recovering is still being learned as people develop other issues.

“There are a lot of side effects that we’re still discovering,” Ford said. “There seems to be a belief that if you survive COVID, you’re good.”

Coaches are being trained on protocols around social distancing and cleaning, Superintendent Cheryl Watson-Harris says. They’re also being taught to be on the lookout for symptoms in students.

Not covered during the town hall was how many student-athletes have tested positive and what the district does when it received notification of a positive test. Last week, practices at Lakeside and Dunwoody high schools were temporarily suspended after several students tested positive for the virus.

In Other News