Superintendent Terry Oatts
Rockdale County Public Schools (RCPS) Superintendent Terry Oatts announced RCPS will postpone fall 2020 high school athletics until second semester.
Oatts issued the following statement on Aug. 7:
“As we contend with the unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 public health crisis, we have continued to grapple with many aspects of ensuring the safety and well-being of our students and staff. Notwithstanding these challenges, we have continued to vigorously prioritize our student and staff safety and well-being by carefully tracking our local, regional and statewide public health data to inform our decision-making. Most recently, I determined that we would begin the 2020-21 school year virtually for the entire first semester due to the sustained upward trajectory of COVID-19 infections locally, regionally and statewide. I also directed that we would not require our teachers and staff to report to their school buildings to carry out their virtual duties first semester; however, we would afford them the option to occasionally work from their classrooms with prior approval from their principals.
“Another area of focus has been our fall sports season planning. The Georgia High School Association (GHSA) permitted fall sports conditioning to start in early June after releasing some safety guidelines. GHSA’s guidelines were advisory in nature and not binding on school districts. As a district, RCPS was the last in the metro Atlanta region to start fall sports conditioning as I required that each of our high school athletic programs develop detailed plans for how it would safely comply with the guidelines to ensure a safe conditioning experience for our student-athletes and athletic personnel. Additionally, I impaneled a GHSA Fall Sports Working Group consisting of key RCPS personnel from several departments with jurisdictional responsibilities for accountability, operations, athletics, safety and legal services. I tasked this working group with oversight responsibilities for reviewing the safety plans for fall sports conditioning and the prospective fall sports season. I also submitted all safety plans to the Gwinnett-Newton-Rockdale Health Department for their review and recommendations before authorizing our fall sports conditioning to begin on July 6, 2020.
“Presently, our working group is focused on the feasibility of proceeding with our fall sports season considering the COVID-19 public health crisis. I have convened our working group on multiple occasions during the last couple of months as we have deliberated on conditioning and now the prospects for a viable fall sports season. I also required that our Director of Athletics in consultation with our school-based athletic directors and coaches develop individual fall sports safety plans detailing what specific steps each program would take to ensure optimal safety for their respective sports. Our working group has thoroughly reviewed and provided feedback on these safety plans. In addition, our regional health department has given their feedback which I have considered.
“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. 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.”
Please visit www.rockdaleschools.org/reopening for additional details.