Virginia Beach changes COVID-19 mitigation plans, allows athletes to play club and travel sports

Greg Giesen, The Virginian-Pilot

Virginia Beach City Public Schools announced a list of COVID-19 mitigation guidelines Monday when it decided the division would have a winter sports season.

Those guidelines are already changing.

The division will allow athletes to play club sports and for a high school team at the same time. Originally, students were told they couldn’t do both.

“After reflecting on the opportunity we have to engage with outside sports organizations whose participants attend our schools, we have decided to modify our Revised Return to Play Guidelines for High School Athletics to allow for participation in club and travel sports,” a release from Virginia Beach schools said.

In order for the students to participate in club or travel sports, the organization holding the sports will need to submit their health mitigation strategies to the Office of Student Leadership for review by Jan. 14, the release said. If their conditions are as strict as Virginia Beach’s, athletes may participate in their programs.

If organizations don’t submit health mitigation plans, student athletes won’t be able to participate with those programs. In addition, participating in competitions outside of Virginia Beach could jeopardize an athlete’s ability to participate in Beach District competition during the winter season.

“We want to provide students with every opportunity to participate in athletics as safely as possible, and we hope this revised rule will encourage sports clubs to adopt and adhere to our robust mitigation practices,” the release said.

Beth Royle, a Virginia Beach resident who started a change.org petition to change the guideline, was overjoyed.

“I’m glad that their minds were swayed that these kids aren’t putting their school in danger,” said Royle, whose petition has more than 2,000 signatures. “These kids can finally feel the weight lifted off their shoulders.

“This is the right choice,” Royle added. “It’s about the kids and they put the kids first.”

Virginia Beach was the first school division in South Hampton Roads to come out of a pause and announce it will have winter sports. Chesapeake will announce its winter sports plans at its school board meeting on Monday. Suffolk will discuss the possibility of sports returning at its school board meeting on Jan. 14. Portsmouth and Norfolk will remain on pause until further notice.

On the Peninsula, the Peninsula District schools will decide on Monday. The Bay Rivers District has already started winter sports. The district is competing without Williamsburg-James City County, which canceled winter sports in November.