Rockdale County postpones fall sports for its 3 high schools

Rockdale County Public Schools postponed fall sports Friday, meaning no football as regularly scheduled for the district’s three high schools – Heritage, Salem and Rockdale County.

Rockdale County superintendent Terry Oatts posted the announcement on the school district’s web page. He emphasized the move was a postponement, not a cancellation, meaning Rockdale County’s fall sports could still happen if the Georgia High School Assocation or other school districts follow suit.

‘‘As a district, we are committed to an active fall sports season; however, we must continue to prioritize above all else the safety and well-being of our student-athletes and athletic personnel,’' Oatts said in his posted statement. “In my judgment, the prospects for a viable fall sports season are more favorable if implemented during second semester when hopefully we will have significantly reduced local, regional and statewide infection and hospitalization rates resulting in decreased case counts. I fully understand the emotions and passions around the issue of athletic competition.‘'

It’s unclear what kind of sports could be played in the second semester if the GHSA proceeds with its season as planned, with opening games scheduled the week of Sept. 4 unless other school districts join Rockdale County’s.

‘‘This is not a cancellation, but a responsible postponement of our fall sports season until second semester when we expect our public health data to reflect a more favorable climate for interscholastic athletic competition,’' Oatts said. “As our athletic department plans for what a second semester fall sports season will look like, we will continue to keep our student athletes, their families and our community informed.‘'

The decision brings to five the number of Georgia football-playing high schools that have opted out of fall sports, but the three Rockdale schools are the largest.

Twiggs County and Stewart County, which canceled their seasons recently, are Class A schools with fewer than 250 students. Rockdale County High has more than 2,000 students. Heritage’s enrollment is about 1,800 while Salem’s is around 1,200.

Rockdale County has been one of the more cautious school districts when it came to dealing with the pandemic. It was the last metro Atlanta district to allow summer conditioning when it called for a July start when the Georgia High School Association permitted other schools to begin June 8.

Salem football coach Jarret Laws declined comment on the latest news, citing school district policy, and referred questions to the district office. He did comment in June, when his team had to delay conditioning.

'‘While I’m frustrated, because I feel it’s important to get in front of our kids, especially at this time in our country, COVID still takes precedence,’' he said at the time.

Salem’s football team was 2-8 last season. Rockdale County finished 4-6. Heritage was 5-6.

Rockdale and Heritage are in the same Region 3-6A, which is now a four-team region with Alcovy, Evans, Grovetown and Lakeside of Evans.

Salem is in 5-3A with Cedar Grove, Greater Atlanta Christian, Westminster, Douglass, Carver of Atlanta, Redan and Sandy Creek.

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