Budget crunch affects county athletic programs


Wayne County Public Schools officials informed county athletic directors by email on July 1 they would not receive any coaching supplements to cover their duties during the summer period.

The decision stems from a wrecked school budget that’s forced administrators to make cuts deemed necessary to compensate for a $5 million shortfall for the 2020-21 fiscal year.

A total of 15 schools that have athletic programs are affected.

Early Monday afternoon, ADs learned that summer workouts for all fall sports has been shut down. The opening day for preseason practice is now Aug. 1. Students are slated to return to class Aug. 17.

Despite the delay, the lack of funds requires ADs to dip into their own athletic budgets to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE), temperature gauges, hand sanitizing stations, wipes and other items to prevent infection from COVID-19.

“We’re taking it one day at a time and waiting to see what comes out next,” said Heath Whitfield, athletic director at Spring Creek.

Any student-athlete who plans to participate in fall sports must fill out a COVID-19 pre-screen form required by the N.C. High School Athletic Association. It is available on the homepage of their base school. Both the parent and student-athlete must sign the form.

The Association notified its 400-plus member schools they could start preseason workouts June 16, and sent out a Phase 1 plan that modified guidelines suggested by the National Federation of High School Sports.

WCPS has asked county ADs to submit proposals of how they plan to conduct daily practices. They must keep weekly logs that include temperature screening, participation, positive COVID-19 tests, hygiene practices, facility cleaning schedules, etc.

“We have to send the logs to the county [office] each week,” Whitfield said. “It’s going to be kind of overwhelming. One person is not going to be able to do it ... have to divide it up and let coaches do different things. We probably won’t have as many kids working out [at one time] unlike some of the other schools.

“It’s going to be real interesting.”

The NFHS recommends that coaches, staff and managers wear face coverings at all times and practice social distancing. Athletes are asked to do the same when not participating in a physical activity.

Workouts should be conducted in “pods.” Gatherings inside a gym are limited to no more than 10 people. Outside venues are allowed no more than 25 people.

Individual drills that require the use of equipment are permissible, but the equipment must be cleaned prior to use by the next individual. All locker rooms, weight rooms and mat rooms are closed during Phase 1.

David Lee, athletics director at Southern Wayne, said that athletes will be screened in the parking lot upon arrival. Anyone who records a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher will be asked to leave with either their parent or guardian.

He, like Whitfield, said the purchase of PPEs has been a concern. The school has bought some items from Amazon and a few community supporters have offered assistance.

Lee hopes it’s a worthy expenditure.

“There’s no magic wand to wave or do we truly know when this will end,” Lee said. “In the end, it’s about keeping everybody healthy.”


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