Alexandria City Public Schools has decided not to allow its schools to participate in winter sports for the 2020-21 season following conversations with the Alexandria Health Department, ACPS announced Wednesday via its website.
Despite the Virginia High School League (VHSL) moving forward with a return-to-play plan, ACPS schools will not participate in organized basketball, wrestling, indoor track, gymnastics, ice hockey or swim and dive competitions. The city includes 14 elementary and pre-K schools, two middle schools and T.C. Williams High School, which was ranked the 47th and 70th overall boys and girls basketball programs in Virginia, respectively, by MaxPreps last season.
“The guidelines that the Virginia High School League released about a week-and-a-half ago, they are not aligned with the CDC guidelines and the guidelines we’re following with ACPS to provide a productive in-person learning experience,” Superintendent Gregory C. Hutchings Jr. said in a video update posted Wednesday. “We want to make sure that we’re being consistent with following those guidelines to keep the health and safety at the top of our lists and priority lists for sure.”
“We also want to make sure that we’re transitioning our students into the academic environment before we begin to transition students into an athletic program. More information we’re going to be sending out to talk about some of the conditioning and the practices that will continue to happen following those CDC guidelines that we are trying to adhere to.”
On Oct. 29, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam amended a previous executive order to ease restrictions on high school sports, most notably allowing schools to move forward with contact sports. The VHSL followed with a new set of guidelines a day later setting limits for attendees and limiting unnecessary physical contact through everything from banning postgame handshakes to foregoing jump balls in basketball (the visiting team will start with the ball in all VHSL games this season).
ACPS typically goes in the same direction of the surrounding Fairfax County Public Schools and Arlington County Public Schools, which include the other four schools T.C. Williams competes against in the Gunston District (Hayfield, West Potomac, Mount Vernon and Annandale). But citing the VHSL’s lack of a mask requirement for players who stand within six feet of each other, the school board is taking its own approach to protecting its students.