Amid COVID absences, Wake schools again making it easier for athletes to remain eligible

·2 min read

The Wake County school system plans to continue waiving attendance requirements to allow more high school and middle school students to play interscholastic athletics this semester.

The Wake school board had waived attendance requirements for athletic eligibility in the fall semester because of how so many students had missed time during the pandemic.

School administrators now want to temporarily extend the attendance waiver into this spring semester.

“We know that there were and are continuing challenges and obstacles due to the pandemic which might otherwise render some of our students ineligible,” Drew Cook, assistant superintendent for academics, told the school board’s policy committee this week.

“As such, we are requesting that this committee waive the attendance component regarding eligibility for student participation in high schools and middle schools for the spring semester of 2022, which is based on their fall participation.”

The policy committee unanimously supported extending the request. The full board is expected to approve the waiver on Tuesday.

“We are taking the extenuating circumstances around the pandemic into account,” said Christine Kushner, chairwoman of the policy committee.

Even with the attendance waiver, students must still meet academic requirement to maintain eligibility.

Sanderson High School’s Caleb Kleven (right) slides into third base ahead of the tag by Cardinal Gibbons High’s Drew Sotell (6) in this 2018 file photo.
Sanderson High School’s Caleb Kleven (right) slides into third base ahead of the tag by Cardinal Gibbons High’s Drew Sotell (6) in this 2018 file photo.

Attendance down during pandemic

Under district policy, Wake County student-athletes had to have been in attendance at least 85% of the time the prior semester to be eligible to participate in the current semester. That works out to being absent no more than 13.5 days during a 90-day semester.

Attendance has dropped during the pandemic from students testing positive for COVID-19 or being quarantined due to exposure to the virus.

Absences are expected to be less of a concern for athletic eligibility next school year because the state Department of Health and Human Services has eased quarantine requirements on schools.

In the past, students exposed to COVID-19 had to quarantine for up to two weeks even if they didn’t test positive. Now vaccinated students who don’t test positive can stay in school and unvaccinated students can return in five days — or less in some cases.

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