Rockdale County Public Schools superintendent Terry Oatts anounced a drastic measure Friday because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Oatts postponed all of the county’s fall high school athletics — football, softball, volleyball and cross country — until the second semester. The Rockdale system previously announced that its entire first semester of school would be digital, and its teachers would not be required to work from their classroom for digital instruction.
Rockdale also has been among Georgia’s most restrictive counties in allowing a return to athletic conditioning during the summer, introducing later start dates than other counties. Georgia High School Association allowed athletic conditioning to begin in early June, but Rockdale’s system didn’t permit it until July 6.
“After careful consultation and deliberation, I have determined that we will postpone our fall sports season until second semester of the 2020-21 school year,” Oatts said in a release. “I have tasked our Director of Athletics with developing a second semester sports schedule for these traditional fall sports accordingly. 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. 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.
“Again, 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. 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.”
At the high school level, Heritage, Salem and Rockdale are impacted by the decision, as are neighboring school districts and regions who have Rockdale County schools on the schedule. If other districts don’t follow the county’s lead and postpone fall sports to the second semester, coming up with a fall sports schedule in the spring could prove difficult.
The second semester athletic schedule also would overlap with winter sports like basketball, swimming and diving and wrestling, along with spring sports like baseball, soccer, golf, tennis and track and field.