Shortly before the Halifax County School Board met on Monday evening, Superintendent Dr. Mark Lineburg announced that Halifax County Public Schools would be closed to students until at least Dec. 7 due to an increase in COVID-19 spread in the community.
The school facilities will be shut down for face-to-face student instruction and all sports conditioning will be halted as well.
The possible date that Dr. Lineburg originally set for the return of students is Dec. 7, which is also the first date for practice in the Virginia High School League’s Championship +1 schedule. If students are able to return on that date the winter sports season will be able to proceed as planned.
Halifax County High School principal Michael Lewis and athletic director Allen Lawter updated the school board on Monday night with how conditioning had been going since it started and plans for how the seasons will proceed when they begin.
Gov. Ralph Northam’s restrictions put into place on Friday dropped the gathering number from 250 to 25 people, not including players, coaches and staff, but Lewis stated in his presentation that to begin with there would be no fans allowed to watch the games. They are installing cameras in the gym and the stadium to stream all games for fans that they can watch for a small fee.
They also updated board members on the screening process and how that will take place for student athletes and coaches. For away games they will be screened before they board the bus and before entering the facility. Officials, workers and fans when restrictions loosen, will also be screened prior to entering the facility.
Everyone must wear face coverings that attend the games, including players and coaches on the bench. Officials and game workers will also wear face coverings, only players on the court will be allowed not to wear face coverings.
Mist dusters were purchased to disinfect the locker rooms before and after use. The left side of the bleachers will remain closed to allow room for the players’ chairs and scorers table to be socially distanced. Home fans and away fans will be separated when they are allowed back. Fans will not be permitted to sit on the first or second row of the bleachers to allow for more room for officials and players on the sideline.
Cheerleaders will be cheering from the balcony at the gym to allow for distance from players and officials. When fans are allowed in, each player will be offered two Piedmont District passes for their parents. The pass will be good for both home and away district games where Halifax County is playing.
Kevon Ferrell, a senior on the boys basketball team spoke on behalf of himself and his teammates who want the opportunity to have a basketball season.
“Basketball is more than just a game for myself and many of my friends. We had dedicated hours and hours to become better athletes,” Ferrell said. “Spending so much time around my teammates and coaches, we have turned into a big family. Our team has had a lot of success in the last few years because of this family atmosphere,” he added.
Ferrell had offers at the end of last season to leave Halifax and attend private schools for a chance to better his opportunities at college scholarships, but he chose to stay home and play his senior year in front of his family and community.
“I want the opportunity to win a state championship for Halifax and my friends and family. College ball is a goal for almost every senior on this team and without basketball our opportunity for scholarships are limited,” Ferrell said.
The plans are in place and the athletes are ready for whenever the schools reopen for students to return. Dec. 21 is the date that the VHSL has set for the first games to begin. If they begin on time, it will have been 284 days since the last official VHSL game.