Manchester school board members are expected to vote Monday on whether to allow winter athletics at city schools, one week after voting to send the district into full remote learning status until early 2021.
The Manchester Board of School Committee will meet remotely tonight at 6.
School board members voted unanimously two weeks ago to table the topic of winter sports, seeking additional information from health officials and school administrators.
The New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association Council has unanimously approved winter sports for the 2020-21 school year and is waiving the bylaw that requires schools play a minimum number of games in their divisions to qualify for the postseason.
Christine Pariseau Telge, athletic director for the Manchester School District, has submitted a memo to board members seeking approval for high school basketball, spirit, swimming, gymnastics, Alpine skiing, Nordic skiing, wrestling, hockey and indoor track.
In a memo to school board members, Manchester Health Department’s Chief Operations Officer Phil Alexakos — without offering a specific recommendation — points out that as of Nov. 18, Manchester experienced the highest rate of new daily cases for COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic in March, 30.7 cases per 100,000 population as a 14-day rolling average.
Alexakos suggests when debating winter athletics and extracurricular activities, board members should consider:
• Activities indoors are inherently riskier for the transmission of COVID-19 than those that take place outdoors due to ventilation and air flow;
• Community transmission metrics are significantly worse than the beginning of school (Yellow) and (Orange) most recently, and is projected to officially trend to Red by Nov. 23.
According to a memo from Telge, divisional athletic directors are working on regionalized schedules for most sports, keeping travel at a minimum.
Schedules also would be shortened, with games possibly beginning the week of Jan. 17 and running for five or six weeks, with open tournament play at the end of the season.
No spectators will be permitted at indoor games in the city “following recommendations from the Manchester Health Department,” Telge wrote.
Facilities for indoor track and swimming have not been confirmed, according to Telge. If suitable facilities aren’t available, the district hopes to offer these as club sports during the winter season.
COVID-19 guidelines and protocols will be in place for all teams, Telge wrote. Winter cheerleading will be limited to practices for the divisional tournament.
Telge was also asking for the board to approve basketball at the middle school level. Those schedules also would be shortened, with travel kept to 30 minutes when possible.
Because of a lack of elementary school facilities, no sports will be offered at that level in Manchester this winter.
Mask usage would be required for all entry and exit from facilities as well as when teams are on sidelines and not able to socially distance. Coaches would be required to take daily temperatures and complete COVID-19 questionnaires for all athletes.
School board members voted last week to have Manchester public schools shift back to remote learning until at least Jan. 19 in anticipation of a spike in COVID-19 cases and staff holiday travel, beginning Nov. 23.
In-person learning will continue for students in specialized instruction programs.