A parents group in Poquoson got part of what it wants Tuesday night when the School Board agreed unanimously to resume high school sports next month with other school systems in the region.
Several parents rallied outside Poquoson City Hall before the board meeting, and several athletes and coaches addressed the members before the vote.
“Without any sports and clubs, life has just been sucked out of everything. It’s really hard,” said Lisa Sava, the parent of a high school volleyball player and a member of a Facebook group called Poquoson Back2School. She voiced worry for students who may lose out on athletic scholarships.
Jackson Harper, captain of the varsity basketball team, said he and other athletes need the competition, in part for their own physical and emotional health.
“We are willing to make any accommodations in order to be able to gain back our ability to play sports and go back to school,” he said.
Sava said the group also wants all students to return to classrooms as soon as possible because virtual instruction isn’t as effective.
“It’s not comfortable; it doesn’t feel real to them,” Sava said. “I see them struggle constantly day after day.”
Poquoson has announced that eighth graders and high schoolers will be starting to learn on a hybrid model Jan. 11, with sixth- and seventh-graders to start Dec. 7. Sava said she is more concerned about younger students who are learning online some days of the week.
Lindsey Jones, a parent of a second grader and fourth grader, said she thinks technology is hindering the learning process for students. Poquoson students in kindergarten to third grade started hybrid learning when the school year began in September.
“They’re young; they need to be in-person,” Jones said. “They need to be able to use manipulatives and have socialization — that’s a big part of school is being socialized and learning how to share and play well with others.”
Jones said she finds the current hybrid model lacking in consistency and hopes to return to normal soon. In response to reopening schools in the midst of a pandemic, she said that hospitalization and mortality rate for children with COVID-19 remains low. More than a million children have contracted coronavirus as of Nov. 12, according to national pediatric experts.
“If I’m able to go into Walmart and Costco and go to travel baseball games and restaurants, my kids should be able to have the option to go to school,” she said.
Superintendent Arty Tillett said the biggest restraint in returning to a normal schedule is the 6-foot distancing guideline recommended by the Peninsula Health District.
“Hybrid is the only way to have kids in schools in our buildings with our current staffing patterns and keep kids socially distanced,” Tillett said.
He also said that while following the guidelines mitigates clear health risks, students are also facing an emotional and social toll for not being in schools right now.
“We are very focused on trying to find a balance between the health risk and also the risk of students not being in school — the loss of learning as well as social and emotional health risks."
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